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West Hartford Girl Wins Gymnastics State Championship

Rachel Levy, 12, a seventh-grader at Bristow Middle School, is the Connecticut Level 8 Gymnastics State Champion. Courtesy photo

Bristow Middle School student Rachel Levy won the Level 8 Connecticut State Gymnastics Championship, and will represent the state in regional competition on April 6.

Rachel Levy in mid-air during the last tumbling pass of her floor routine. Photo credit: Team Photo (Courtesy photo)

By Ronni Newton

Rachel Levy, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Bristow Middle School in West Hartford, is not only Connecticut’s Level 8 all-around state champion, but also finished in first place or tied for first place in three of the four events at the state championship meet on March 17 at the University of New Haven and will now move on to represent the state in regional competition.

“My favorite thing about gymnastics is just having the feeling of flying through the air when I’m flipping. It just feels natural,” said Rachel.

Rachel, who has been competing for Connecticut Gymnastics Academy (CGA) in Wallingford since last spring, achieved an all around-score of 38.375 on March 17, taking home top honors in Level 8. She also earned first place or a share of first place in three events with career high scores of 9.725 on vault, 9.70 on floor, and 9.675 on beam.

As top finisher, Rachel has earned a spot on Connecticut’s “Super Seven” team which will represent the state in the Region 6 meet at the MassMutual Center in Springfield on April 6. She will be be competing against teams from New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

It’s been a great season for Rachel, who also scored above 38 in the all-around (out of a possible 40 points) in February at the Pikes Peak Cup in Colorado Springs, CO.

Gymnastics requires countless hours of training and conditioning to achieve incredible strength in the core muscles as well as virtually every other muscle of the body, in addition to balance and gracefulness. Rachel said that while conditioning is her least favorite aspect of the sport, she knows how important it is to make her stronger.

And while many gymnasts have a specialty – or one event that they may dread – Rachel likes, and does well, in all four.

“I really don’t have a best event,” she said. “I enjoy doing all of them and my skills are all pretty even.”

She said that of the skills she currently competes, her favorite is her beam series (see routine in video below) – a back handspring to layout step out. She also enjoys performing her beam dismount – a roundoff full [twist].

“My favorite skill is working double-backs into the pit during practice although I don’t compete that yet,” Rachel said. A double-back is two consecutive back somersaults in the same skill movement.

“The vault that I do this year is a Yurchenko pike [roundoff onto the springboard, back handspring onto the vault table, flip in pike position for dismount], but last year, as a first year Level 8, I did a Tsuk pike,” Rachel said. [In a Tsukahara, or Tsuk, the gymnast hurdles off the springboard, does a roundoff on the vault table, and then dismounts.]

Her floor routine (see video below) is set to a tango beat, “It’s the first year I’ve used it. I really like it because I like the beat and the sound of it,” Rachel said.

Rachel has been competing in gymnastics since age 8, when she joined the Level 2 team at Gymnastics Training Center (GTC) in Simsbury. She said her introduction to the sport was as a 4-year-old, when she took a class at the YMCA in Granby, and then some classes at My Gym in West Hartford before beginning classes at GTC in kindergarten.

She moved up quickly through the levels, reaching Level 8 last year as well as an 11-year-old. Last year she qualified for Level 8 regionals, but not for the Super Seven team that competes against squads from other states. In USA Gymnastics, the levels begin at 2 and go up to Level 10. Above Level 10, Elite gymnasts are generally those who compete for a spot on the U.S. National Team and represent the country in international competition including the Olympics.

Gymnastics is Rachel’s passion, and right now it’s the only sport in which she participates. She said she not only loves practicing and competing in gymnastics, but she loves watching it on TV, and attending college and elite competitions.

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Rachel Levy and her teammates holding the trophy after winning the Level 8 Connecticut State team title. Courtesy photo

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