By Douglas Maxwell Myer, Contributing Writer
Hudson/Marlborough – At Hudson High School, freshman Ava Sandford is one of the leading gymnasts on her varsity team. Over the years, she has taken part in countless competitions and her love of gymnastics continues to grow.
Sandford’s first encounter with the sport came when she was only 3 years old when she attended a “Mommy and Me” recreational class in Sudbury. She would move up to more advanced courses with each passing year and she was always enthusiastic about attending to as many classes as possible. In the summer before she entered second grade, a new facility, the New England Academy of Gymnastics, opened near her home. It was there that she would begin her experience in Junior Olympic Gymnastics.
All year round she would practice roughly 20 to 22 hours each week, leading to success in various competitions. When she became a level seven gymnast, she qualified for a national meet in Indianapolis, Ind., where she ranked fourth on vault; as a level eight gymnast, she ranked in first place on both the vault and bars.
By the time Sandford was a level nine gymnast, she had injured one of her feet and broken a finger. Despite these injuries, she still attended all of her practices and did whatever she could to cope with her setbacks. She had qualified for regionals but fell short in the Eastern Nationals due to her physical distress and that was when Sandford decided to quit Junior Olympic Gymnastics.
Before starting high school, Sandford had nurtured herself back to full health, but wanted a new start so the Marlborough resident decided to attend Hudson High School. She kicked off her freshmen experience as a cheerleader, getting reacquainted with jumping and tumbling maneuvers which prompted her to take part in gymnastics again.
“Gymnastics always has and will be a very large part of who I am,” Sandford said. “Gymnastics opens up a whole new world because it’s such a different feeling to flip in the air, or swing around the bars that not many other athletes experience. I think once you’re a gymnast, you’re always a gymnast.”
In the winter, Sandford was accepted onto the gymnastics varsity team and, not only became a big contributor, but also an amazing team player and supporter. She encouraged to the older and younger athletes, and even her teammates that were new or struggling in the sport. High school gymnastics provided Sandford a much more flexible schedule than Junior Olympics which has given her the chance to bond more with her friends and explore other life opportunities.
Now she is enjoying her time on the varsity team and looks forward to having more great experiences with her teammates. After graduating high school, Sandford plans on carrying her passion for gymnastics onto college.