Hartford, Conn. - Midway through Wednesday morning, Lauren Hernandez took the floor at the 2013 P&G US Gymnastics Championships in Hartford, Conn. and demonstrated why she is one of the most talked about junior gymnasts in the United States.
The Old Bridge, NJ native danced her heart out practicing her floor exercise in the last training day before Thursday afternoon’s competition. The 13 year old may not have tumbled her full routine, but she performed it with a maturity and flair beyond that of her fellow competitors. Every toe was pointed, every finger was exact, and she looked into the empty stands like she was performing for a crowd filled to the very last row.
Hernandez credited Maggie Hanley, her coach at MG Elite in Morganville, with creating a routine that she can perform with such pizazz.
“Our coach choreographs our routines, and she gives us our poses,” explained Hernandez after her training session had concluded.
But she admitted that she doesn’t always stick to her coach’s plan.
“If we do a pose that is a little more sassy, we put that in our routine instead,” she grinned.
Hernandez will compete in her second National Championships on Thursday and Saturday afternoon. She finished 21st in last year’s Nationals in St. Louis, including a tie for 17th on floor exercise.
This is her first championships as a member of the Junior National Team, which she was named to after an early July national training camp. National team recognition not only gives Hernandez access to training with the National Team Coordinators, but recognizes the strides she has made in her gymnastics since the 2012 championships.
This week’s competition marks the first National Championships where she will be joined by a teammate. Bayville’s Ariana Agrapides recently qualified to become the gym’s second international elite level gymnast, and has turned heads with her steady and strong double twisting Yurchenko vault.
Agrapides, who finished 2nd on vault at July’s U.S. Classic (a national qualifier), believes that training with a fellow competitor is beneficial.
“We always cheer each other on and hope that each other does really well,” said the 12 year old.
Hernandez agrees. “We’re always supportive of each other and we push each other in the gym.”
This week’s event in Hartford will set the table for Hernandez and Agrapides as they hope to qualify for international assignments and build their resumes to reach their Olympic dreams.
“My goals to hit 8 for 8 (routines) and to do what I’ve been doing in the gym,” said Hernandez.
Agrapides agreed. “I just want to have fun and hit all my routines, and show everyone what I can do.
Other New Jersey gymnasts in the junior women’s division include Christina Desiderio of Hackettstown and Melissa Reinstadtler of Brick.
Akash Modi of Morganville, who trains at the same gym as Agrapides and Hernandez, will compete in the Senior Men’s division on Friday and Sunday.