For the Daily Journal

There is one major reason why three gymnasts from Wright’s Gymnastics Academy have advanced to the Level 9 Eastern Championships.

“They push each other,” Wright’s Academy coach Anamaria Roe said. “They support each other. When one of them has a bad day, they encourage one another.

“They trained together for years and they work really hard.”

The three girls, McKenzie McClarney, Ania Alsum and Kerrie Legault, from the Greenwood-based academy participate today in the USA Gymnastics meet at Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Roe said the higher level you reach in gymnastics, the more time that is needed to practice.

“They made a lot of sacrifices,” Roe said. “Instead of spending time with other friends, they basically come in the gym every day for three or four hours. They learn how to prioritize at an early age, to plan ahead and do their homework.”

Roe, whose maiden name was Bican, was a member of Romania’s 1996 Olympic team.

McClarney, a Greenwood Community High School freshman, qualified by placing fourth in the all-around competition April 9 at the Region 5 meet in Bourbonnais, Illinois. Alsum, a Plainfield freshman, qualified by finishing fifth in the all-around. And Legault, a Center Grove freshman, placed sixth in the all-around.

McClarney also is a sprinter on the high school track and field team. She was on Greenwood’s two winning relays in the Johnson County meet April 19.

“It’s always a little difficult this time of year because I leave for school at 6:45 (a.m.),” McClarney said. “Then right after school I go to track practice, then from there I go to gymnastics and don’t usually get home until 9:30 (p.m.).

“I try to work as hard as I can in class at school to get my homework done because I usually don’t have that much time when I get home.”

McClarney has been going to Wright’s Gymnastics since she was 3 years old.

“I try to treat both sports equally, but it’s always going to be gymnastics,” McClarney said. “I love doing track and running for my school, but gymnastics is the thing I love the most.”

Last year was McClarney’s first season in Level 9.

“Unfortunately, I ended up breaking my arm, and I was out for the entire competition season, so I wasn’t able to make to regionals last year,” McClarney said. “My main goal is to have fun and meet new gymnasts and make friends.”

McClarney said she was a level behind Alsum and Legault until two years ago.

“I was able to catch up and be friends with them the last two years,” McClarney said.

Like McClarney, Legault has been participating in gymnastics since she was 3 years old.

“It’s just like my whole life,” Legault said.

“I really haven’t competed in any other sports. I did dance when I was younger.”

Legault estimates she trains 20 hours per week.

Legault’s all-around finish was boosted by capturing the regional title in bars.

“I feel I have a natural talent on bars and it’s the most fun event for me,” Legault said.

For the Eastern Championships, Legault said her goals are twofold.

“I just want to have fun and have solid routines,” Legault said.

Alsum has a similar game plan.

“I just want to do what I’ve been doing all season, keep myself positive and go in there and have fun,” Alsum said.

Alsum said it will fun to share the experience with Legault and McClarney.

“I wouldn’t be there without my teammates,” Alsum said.