From the Mommy and Me class to the level 10 national championship, gymnastics has always been a part of Danielle Levy's life.
The 17-year-old River Ridge High School junior trains at Suncoast Gymnastics Academy in Port Richey and has been with coach Arnold Gwinn since she was 2 years old. While at Suncoast, Danielle set a goal to receive a scholarship offer from a college for gymnastics. With her fifth place finish at the national championship in Seattle last Sunday, she accomplished that goal and has now opened talks with Southeast Missouri State for a full scholarship.
"It was nerve-racking talking to the coaches," Danielle said. "They were the first school I've ever talked to and I'm a little nervous about a new gym. The coaches are really nice though. It's just like another Arnold, and the teammates seem really open and nice, too, so I'm hoping it will be good."
Elite gymnastics is the highest level of competition, just one step above level 10. It produces the national team that competes in the Olympics. Danielle, however, has no ambition to continue onto the elite level and compete on the national team. Her goal was to have gymnastics take her to college.
"I didn't want to waste my time with something like the Olympics and then not be able to do anything else after," Danielle said. "Arnold told me I could get into college and that became my goal. I'd rather have done that and got something out of it."
Gwinn, a college gymnast himself, has seen several of his other students go to college over his 22-year career with Suncoast. With Danielle's success, Gwinn sees her as an example of what the area can produce and hopes the academy has a good enough name in the community to attract more gymnasts like her.
"Her goal for the past three or four years has been to get into college and she is on the way to doing that," Gwinn said. "She's my ninth to get a scholarship. I'd like to think that if there are people in this area that are thinking of taking gymnastics seriously that they would consider coming here. Having our gymnasts like Danielle have the success they've had helps."
Shannon LeBlanc has known and competed beside Danielle for eight years. She is not surprised by Danielle's success and feels Gwinn's teaching has had a lot to do with Danielle achieving her goals.
"She has a lot of drive for the sport," LeBlanc said. "If she falls, she jumps right back on the apparatus. I knew she had it in her to have a finish like what she had in Seattle. Arnold is a big part of it because of the way he motivates you to push yourself to get better. I've been to eight different gyms around the country, but I moved back here to be with him."
Submit feedback, story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.