State Champion Gymnast
(Posted to Fairfield.Patch.com 5/6)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.
Fairfield, CT – She started tumbling at a very early age and never stopped. Now she has to her credit two gold medals from a recent gymnastics state championship and aims to advance to the next level.
In a sit-down with Patch, 15-year-old Fairfield Ludlowe High School sophomore Alley Meyer spoke about her achievements, with mom Gail providing an assist.
“She was very active as a toddler,” said Gail. “She would jump from our teeter totter to the swingset and hang on it. My husband thought she was going to dislocate her shoulders. We even consulted a chiropractor to make sure it was safe for her to do this.”
“When she was 18 months old, I put her in a Mommy & Me tumbling class at the Y and she was the model student,” Gail continued. “She would forward roll down the ‘cheese mat’, walk on a balance beam and bounce on the trampoline. She was very physically adept at a very early age.”
At 2 ½, Gail enrolled Alley at Fairfield County Gymnastics, a gym on Linwood Ave. “We told them she was 3 to get in the program,” Gail said. “After a year, the owner put her in a more advanced class and she really excelled from there.”
Alley picked up the tale from there, noting, “From age 3 to 7, I was in a pre-competitive program focused on gymnastics. At 7, I started the first level of competitive gymnastics. One of my initial significant achievements was taking first place at a statewide competition that first year.”
Despite the promising start, she grew frustrated with the sport, feeling that she was not making any progress, and, at age 9, switched gyms and took up cheerleading for the next three years.
“When I was 13, a gym called Gymnastics & Cheerleading Academy of Connecticut opened up at Fairfield’s new Sportsplex,” Alley said. “Jane Marella was the director and had been my instructor at Fairfield County Gymnastics. She encouraged me to join. It was a better environment and geared more to the competitive nature of the sport. My coach Craig Bayer was incredible and really pushed me. I was actually pursuing both gymnastics and high school cheerleading, though my interest was pointed more to gymnastics.”
Bayer moved on and was replaced by Melissa Zigmont, who guided Alley on technique. She excelled, competed in several small local meets and qualified for a Level 7 Gymnastics State Competition, which was held this past April 2nd at St. Paul’s Catholic High School in Bristol, CT. “This was a big deal, with over 80 girls ages 15 to 18 competing from all over Connecticut,” she said. “I expected to do well but didn’t think I’d come out on top and have almost perfect performances.”
Notably, in the Vault, Alley scored a 9.6 out of a possible 10, and a 9.1 on the Floor, to earn State Champion honors in both exercises. In addition, she placed third in the state on the Uneven Bars with a score of 8.65.
“Depending on how my summer practices go, I’ll be moving up to Level 8 competition,” she said. “It’s a much more challenging level.”
How does gymnastics make her feel? “Going to practices is my escape from everything else that’s going on,” she said. “My teammates and coaches are so enthusiastic, nothing else matters and the focus is on what you can achieve next.”