MARQUETTE - Fifteen-year-old Macy Niemisto has been a dancer since she was 2 years old.
But this year, the freshman at Marquette Senior High School decided to try something in addition to her ballet and jazz classes - gymnastics.
"This is my first year," she said during a recent team practice. "My sister was in it for all of high school and she really enjoyed it."
Although she’s taken dance since she was 2, Marquette Senior High School freshman Macy Niemisto decided to join the school’s gymnastics team this year. It takes a lot of work and new muscles to start gymnastics, but Neimisto, above, working on the bars, says she is enjoying participating on the team. (Journal photos by Johanna Boyle)
Joining the gymnastics team, however, means learning a lot of new skills.
"It's a lot about strength while looking graceful still," Niemisto said.
With the help of her teammates and coaches, Niemisto is learning to compete in two of four gymnastics events - beam and floor. She's also started working on the uneven bars. Vault is the fourth gymnastic event.
"It takes a lot to first get a basic skill," she said.
The team practices every day after school, first with a warm up run, then stretches, then working on particular events or skills.
"You have to make sure you're really strong," Niemisto said. "You have to use a lot of muscles you never use."
USA Gymnastics, one of the sports governing bodies, estimates there are over 5 million participants in gymnastics over the age of 6 in the country, making up 4,000 gymnastic clubs. The majority are female and under the age of 18.
Although gymnastics as a sport has existed for thousands of years, it began to take its modern form in the 1800s when athletic clubs and schools began hosting exhibitions.
Now audiences tune in for the gymnastics portions of the Olympics or other televised events, but what you don't see is all the work that goes into the athletes' training.
"It depends on what kind of skills you have," Niemisto said. "Some of your routines you get brand new skills you have to learn."
Thanks to her years of dance training and her older sister being a gymnast, Niemisto said she was familiar with some of the basic skills required by gymnastics.
"It's a mix of dance and tumbling," she said of the floor event, which is performed to music.
The beam requires gymnasts to perform tumbling skills while balancing on a four-inch wide beam.
Bar routines focus on upper-body strength and timing as gymnasts swing and transition between the two bars.
"Bars takes a lot of arm strength and I don't have much yet," Niemisto said. "Whenever I work on a new event, I always feel sore."
Besides finding participation in gymnastics can carry over to help with her dance, Niemisto said she was enjoying being part of the team.
"I really like it," she said. "I think I'm going to do it next year, too."
To learn more about gymnastics as a sport, visit www.usa-gymnastics.org.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.