AnElyse Sweeney is a thirteen-year-old gymnast from Armington with a very bright future. When she started at nine years old, AnElyse knew she would love doing gymnastics. It took her a couple of years at the start to find a gym where she would really be able to excel. Two years into her gymnastics journey, she found Gym Corner in Washington, IL, where she and her mother, Stacey Sweeney, felt she would truly be able to grow as a gymnast.
AnElyse’s competitive gymnastics career began around three years ago. She has been competing in the Xcel Program, a gymnastics program that runs alongside the Junior Olympic gymnastics program. The Xcel Program has different divisions, bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond, compared to the Junior Olympics’ different levels, 1-7. So, the Xcel Program’s divisions correlate with the Junior Olympic levels. Last year, AnElyse had her first competition last year in the Xcel Program’s Gold Division, which corresponds to the requirements of the Junior Olympics’ level four. During this competition she ended up qualifying for state, which was unfortunately canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This year, she also competed as a gold and performed very well. In her first meet this year, she placed 4th on beam. In her second meet of the year, she placed 2nd on beam, 3rd on floor and vault, 4th on all around, and 5th on bars. At her third meet of the year, the Midwest Open, she placed 4th on beam and bars. For her final meet of the year, at state, she placed 4th on beam. AnElyse’s talent has been on full display over the last year. Her mother, Stacey, said “She loves gymnastics and is hoping to move to the Junior Olympics team for the next season.”
Almost as important as the competition itself, are the experiences that AnElyse has gotten from her gymnastics career. When I asked Stacey what her favorite part of watching her daughter compete was, she said, “The smile on her face when she does well. Not necessarily when she wins or beats her best score, but when she completes the routine and knows it was her personal best. The smile she gets then is priceless.” Stacey also told me that gymnastics has improved AnElyse’s confidence “a ton”. She said that gymnastics has helped her “become less shy and more confident all around.” She also has learned how to “cheer for her competitors, how to accept that she won’t always win, and learned to be proud of doing her best, regardless of the results.”