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Gymnast Pettitt-Kenney turning heads at a rapid pace

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By Michael Hicks

She may only be 11 years old, but there’s little doubt that Teresa Pettitt-Kenney is grounded for her age. The petite adolescent is supremely structured. She likes having an organized list of things to do, especially when it comes to school work.
“I like how you just turn the computer on and see what you have to do. I know what I have to do to get that done. I feel it’s less stressful,” Teresa said. “It’s easier for me.”
It also benefits the Colorado Connections Academy home-schooled student to exert more time to her passion of gymnastics. Teresa, who has a 13-year-old sister — Sophia — and 8-year-old brother — Hugh and resides in the Clear Creek School District, started in the sport three years ago. It wasn’t like anything else she’d ever done. And she’s proven that with her rapid growth.
“She’s progressed pretty rapidly. We were quickly doing more and more hours per week. Now we’re (practicing) about 20 hours per week. During the school year it might be a little less,” said her mother, Lisa Pettitt, who started homeschooling her children eight years ago. “Homeschooling fits in so well with that because we can actually have some family time. She’s not just running from one thing to the other and to the other.
“It’s nice to have time together and not be like now we have to get here. Not have such a rigid schedule,” Pettitt added.
Teresa, who trains at 5280 Gymnastics, began nearly three years ago in an intermediate recreation class. But soon she found herself at the competitive level. She moved up from Level IV to Level VIII in no time, placing second in the state last December in the all-around at Level VI behind first-place finishes in the floor exercise and bars. Four months later, she placed third at Level VIII behind firsts on the floor and her favorite event the balance beam.
She’s going up to Level VIII in the fall on her way to Level X and possibly the Elite stage, which is primarily for world and Olympic-caliber athletes.
“She just loved it. She’s a natural talent,” Pettitt said. “She has a good work ethic and a combination of things have served her very well.”
One of those would be the coaching she receives at 5280, particularly from Stan Chinyerere, a former member of the Zimbabwe National Team from 1991-95. And though he’s seen his fair share of success, even he must admit that Teresa’s rise in the sport is uncommon.
“It is unusual because the steps from Level IV to Level VIII are quite big. Not every average talented kid does that,” he said.
Gymnastics requires a preparedness that is both physical and mental, Chinyerere said. There is a certain amount of fear in some the skills that require a lot of concentration, a lot of desire because 90 percent of what they do they fail before they get it. Teresa, though, is one of the few who perseveres, he said, and gets it whereas not everybody else wants it.
“She is that good. She’s (also) that modest, too,” he said.