Walking into her mother’s bedroom at three years old, sophomore Caitlin Meneses would climb onto her mother’s bed and start doing flips.
One day her mother discovered her, and frightened that her daughter would hurt herself, started supervising her daughter whenever she went to flip on the bed.
Meneses’ mother had realized that her daughter was very active, so she enrolled her in dance. Meneses hated dance.
Then when her cousin, a gymnast, came to visit, Meneses saw her walking on her hands. Fascinated by this, Meneses decided to start doing gymnastics, and she fell in love with it.
Meneses has been doing gymnastics for the past 10 years. Throughout her gymnastics career, she has participated in all four gymnastics events: floor, vault, bars, and balance beam, but there is no event that stands out to her more than the others.
“My favorite has changed. First, I loved bars. Then floor. People considered it my best event, and I loved the tumbling and dancing. Now, I love vault. That’s what I am doing the best at right now, and I am not afraid of it anymore,” Meneses said.
Every day at practice, Meneses starts her session by warming up. Then, the gymnasts are separated into groups by level of experience, and they start practicing for the events. They try to practice for each event every day for about 30 to 45 minutes each; that way, they are always ready when it comes time to compete.
For seven years, Meneses participated in USA Gymnastics, a competition in which she has placed in some event before. Meneses was the state champion one year on the Level 6 balance beam division. She was also the Level 5 first All-Around Champion, meaning she had the highest overall score in all four events in that competition.
But gymnastics has not always been easy for Meneses. She practices year-round from Tuesdays to Saturdays for three hours each day, and managing her time between school and sports can be hard.
“Honestly, I have no clue how I do it. If I have extra time in class, I start my homework. I get here early, and I read in JROTC if I have extra time. I also read in the car. I get math done in class. But, when you love something so much, you find the time, and you make it work,” Meneses said.
According to Meneses, the biggest obstacle for gymnasts is overcoming mental blocks. They can come to you from out of nowhere.
“It is the hardest. I’ll get scared of something, and my mind will contradict itself. For me, the worst one was during tumbling. I knew I could do it, but then I just stopped. I [didn’t] do the tuck because it scared me,” Meneses said.
However, Meneses’ family is very supportive of her. Her mother video tapes every competition, and when Meneses is going through a mental block, her mother enocurages her and reassures her that she can do it.
Meneses and her family will also buy pins at the competitions to commemorate accomplishments and to collect as keepsakes. Her parents always attend her competitions, and when other family members visit, they always ask how gymnastics is going. The support for Meneses is widespread.
Overall, gymnastics has been an incredible learning experience for Meneses.
“The biggest thing is never give up. Always try because one day you will get there. If I can get through something that causes me so much pain, then I can get through anything. There is a reason for everything, and as long as you keep pushing, you will get there,” Meneses said.
She has even begun to spread her knowledge and experiences to others by coaching the younger children at the gym. It is in teaching gymnastics that Meneses feels she learns the most.
“I love being able to learn by teaching. Once you can teach something, then you know you really know it,” Meneses said.
After high school, Meneses plans to continue gymnastics, whether it be participating in college gymnastics, coaching, or owning her own gym.
“[Gymnastics] is always going to be a part of my life. There is nothing that can ever take me away from it,” Meneses said.