Bachman vaults her way to all-around state champion title

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Kaylee Bachman, a Monona native and MFL MarMac eighth grader, earned the title of Level 8 All-Around State Champion at the Wisconsin State Gymnastics Championships last month. She competed with TNT Gymnastics, which has a training location in Prairie du Chien. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times 

Kaylee Bachman is a testament to the fact that hard work, dedication, perseverance and attention to detail truly does pay off when competing in a sport. Last month, the MFL MarMac eighth grader earned the title of Level 8 All-Around State Champion at the Wisconsin State Gymnastics Championships. 

Kaylee competed with TNT Gymnastics, which has training locations in Prairie du Chien, as well as Waukon, Richland Center and Mauston. She’s been a gymnast at TNT since age 4.5, when parents Rachel and Chet enrolled her in recreational classes.

“You don’t really have sports to do in school at that age,” Kaylee said. “They wanted to keep me active and help with my flexibility and balance.”

Kaylee blossomed in the sport, and, in second grade, began competing through TNT’s Xcel team, which she said offered a “more laid-back, fun type of competition.” There are several Xcel levels: bronze, silver and gold. Kaylee performed well at them all.

From there, she moved on to Junior Olympic competition, which has numbered levels. Levels 4 and 5 are the biggest, Kaylee said, as gymnasts build many of their skills. Moving up levels can be difficult, she added, as gymnasts battle not only the competition, but their own changing bodies. Kaylee’s small stature has been helpful in that sense.

“I’m always going to be tiny,” she remarked. “I use that to my advantage.”

That doesn’t mean it was easy, however.

“When I moved to levels, things got harder,” Kaylee admitted. “I didn’t place, and I had to get used to it. Now, I feel like that hard work paid off, having to go through those struggles.”

Preparing for competition is no easy task. During the school year, Kaylee practices four days per week, three hours each day. In the summer, that bumps up to five days per week, four hours each day. Training involves not just practicing her skills, but holding some of them for longer periods of time. Gymnasts also work on positioning, shoulder strengthening and abdominal workouts.

When this season started, Kaylee said she didn’t go into it with the goal of being the state’s all-around champion.

“I take it meet by meet,” she shared. “I always improve throughout the season. It helped keep me confident and build into the state meet.”

As state approached, though, Kaylee inched closer to the top of the podium.

“The past few meets, I hadn’t won the all-around. I was close,” she said, “but I couldn’t flip the vault.”

Flipping a skill, or completing an extra flip in the air, is a vault requirement once gymnasts reach level 8. It’s a big jump up, as well as a big difference-maker in scoring, where mere tenths and hundredths separate the placing gymnasts receive.

At state, Kaylee stuck her vault, placing her third in the event and increasing her all-around score by almost a point. 

To round out the competition, Kaylee placed first on floor, second on beam and sixth on bars. Of those events, she said the floor routine was her favorite.

“It’s been pretty high-scoring all year,” she said. “It’s not just the score, but how I perform it.”

While other gymnasts stuck to what Kaylee termed “violin music,” she chose to perform a more up-tempo routine to AC/DC’s iconic “Back in Black.”

As she competes, Kaylee said it’s important for her not to over-think.

“When you do, that’s when you get hurt or something goes wrong,” she explained. “I go through the motions in my head, what my goal is in this event.”

Talking with her fellow gymnasts also helps, she said.

With how scores are presented at meets, shown in brief flashes on the screen, Kaylee said it’s not obvious who the leaders are. 

“There are so many people,” she said. “I could tell how I was doing, but I couldn’t tell the placing.”

With gymnastics being such a detail-oriented sport, one small movement or misstep could change the results.

“It’s even the tiniest things,” Kaylee said, “like, had someone not wobbled on the beam, that could have improved them in the all-around. You can’t always predict it. It’s whatever ends up happening.”

Kaylee said winning the all-around was an exciting moment. She enjoyed celebrating with her family and TNT teammates and coaches.

“The coaches are really good. They’re dedicated and have helped me a lot,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without them. They care about us being safe and help us reach our goals.”

Kaylee said she’s thankful for her teammates pushing her over the years. When one gymnast learns a skill, she said it inspires others to go for it, as well. They’ve all enjoyed training in TNT’s new facility in Prairie du Chien.

“That’s helped a lot,” she mentioned. “Everyone is improving.”

Kaylee’s plans for the immediate future include competing at the Level 8-10 Region IV Championships in St. Paul, Minn., on April 13-15. She qualified based on her performance at state.

Next year, Kaylee hopes to advance to Level 9. She plans to continue competing throughout high school, and has even considered participating in college gymnastics. She doesn’t see herself tiring of the sport any time soon.

“Gymnastics is different from anything else I’ve ever done,” she said. “It’s a difficult sport, but I like that it’s challenging. There’s always another skill to get, to look forward to.”

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