Mallory LeNeave headed for the 2019 Missouri State Championship with the goal of pushing herself to do her best. Like the rest of the team, her aim was simply to give it her all, not necessarily to take first place.
But “their best” for the athletes at Xtreme Gymnastics in Lee’s Summit allowed them to take the first-place title at the 2019 Missouri State Championships. The Junior Olympic level 7 to 10 athletes traveled to St. Louis in early spring, and the level 10 athletes were ranked the No. 1 team in Missouri.
“This year, we went in and we decided that we’re doing gymnastics for ourselves; not to win anything, but to have a good competition,” said LeNeave, a level 10 athlete. “I wasn’t thinking, ‘Are we going to win?’ when they called our name. It was like, ‘We did it,’ finally, at the right moment. As a team, seeing the banner was really special. Especially it being my last year here, being able to do this was really special.”
LeNeave, 17, has been training and competing with Xtreme Gymnastics since she was 6. The multi-sport complex in Lee’s Summit offers both instructional and competitive programs for preschool to high school-aged athletes.
LeNeave accepted a full-ride NCAA gymnastics scholarship to the University of Minnesota, where she will continue her gymnastics passion.
“I really wanted to end on something that would make me remember all the hard work that I fought through to get there,” LeNeave said. “I went up on floor, and I did my best.”
Junior Olympic coach Terin Humphrey, a 2004 Summer Olympian silver medalist, said the athletes practice about 22 hours per week, but the pressure to succeed increases during competition season.
“As a coach, you have to be able to push them (the athletes) to what they’re capable of doing,” Humphrey said.
One key to success is to encourage athletes to work outside of their comfort zones, Humphrey said.
“I was very proud of them,” she said. “They came together as a team and finally got that title.”
LeNeave said Xtreme not only teaches young athletes about the physical demands of sports, but also about establishing community and developing as individuals.
“It was really important and special for us to be able to say, ‘Yes, we won state. We went up and did our best,’” LeNeave said. “And not only did we achieve as individuals, but as a team we achieved something.”
Other level 10 athletes said the gym community is welcoming and supportive, which contributes to their development and overall sense of motivation and pride.
“We push each other quite a bit,” said Jaye Mack said, a Junior Olympic level 10 athlete. “If someone’s having a rough day, there’s always someone to talk to that pushes you and helps you do better.”
In addition to LeNeave and Mack, Kyra Burns, Sara Beck, Carley Scott, Amber Pedersen, Emily Joyce, Olivia Burns, Clara Wallace and Sophia Bell were part of the winning team.
Heather Buelow, chief operations officer at Xtreme Gymnastics, said Xtreme’s six core values — continuous improvement, collaborative teamwork, customer commitment, healthy balanced living, fun and positive environment, and pursuing passion — guide the way when coaches interact with gymnasts.
“We want our core values to be the DNA of our culture,” Buelow said. “We want people to feel this intangibly when they walk in the door.”
Buelow said it’s especially important for staff to live by these values in order to create a culture that encourages leadership and personal connections.
“Developing the staff is really our focus,” Buelow said.
“The kids are getting so much more than gymnastics. We want to help them become leaders beyond gymnastics.”