Lake Murray Elementary School students to train with USA Gymnastics talent program

Pictured left to right are Madeline Reid and Ashley Locker, local students who've been selected to the USA Gymnastics Talent Opportunity Program. (photo provided)

Madeline Reid (left) and Ashley Locker, are local student-athletes who’ve been selected to the USA Gymnastics Talent Opportunity Program. (photo provided)

Two local young student-athletes will join 100 others next month for an opportunity to train with top gymnasts and coaches from around the country.

Lake Murray Elementary School students Madeline Reid and Ashley Locker are two of four South Carolina gymnasts to be selected to the 2014 USA Gymnastics National Talent Opportunity Program, a talent search and educational program. After evaluation at the state or regional level each summer, the best of the best are invited to the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center in Houston where they are further tested and trained.

Reid and Locker train locally at Lake Murray Gymnastics with head coach Abby Reid.

“The girls have worked incredibly hard to qualify and we are honored to have two gymnasts representing South Carolina,” she said. “Madeline and Ashley are not only excelling in gymnastics, (but they are also) excelling in the classroom as well.”

This October will be the third time 10-year-old Reid has qualified for the Talent Opportunity Program, while 8-year-old Locker will join her for the first time.

“I wasn’t surprised but I’m excited to go back. I worked really hard, and I’m happy I made it again,” Reid said.

The girls pay special attention each time gymnasts like them are featured in the Olympics.

“Whenever I saw someone go on vault, beam or floor, they always did better than what I expected. That’s what I try to do too. I always try to do my best and do better than what other people might expect,” Reid said.

“My favorite event is bars because I like doing giants, and I thought they did a really good job at bars in the Olympics,” Locker said.

As student-athletes, the girls must balance homework and the hours of training. They each spend about 20 hours a week at the gym, but Reid says school still comes first.

“It is a little tough. I’m in fifth grade, and once you get in fifth grade you get more homework than you want sometimes. But I had straight A’s, so I can handle it,” she said.

Their coach also said sports can make a student’s schedule fuller but that the skills learned through training and competition pay off in the end.

“I’ve seen first-hand that it keeps students involved. It keeps them disciplined. There are a lot of team morale and respect issues that get taught in sports,” she said. “We encourage our gymnasts at Lake Murray Gymnastics to do well in school, and they excel because they have the discipline to get their homework done and manage work and play … Maddy and Ashley are great examples of that.”

After the testing phase next month, Reid and Locker might be invited to participate in the National Talent Opportunity Program Training Camp in December.