Since age three, the gym has been a second home for high school senior Taylor Ann Wilson of St. Mary’s Episcopal School. While most people would picture a room filled with treadmills and weights, Taylor sees balance beams and uneven bars, cheering families, and insistent coaches. Through constant challenge and competition, gymnastics has taught this young athlete the importance of persevering when times get rough.
Like most young gymnasts, she wanted to make it to the Olympics one day, but she eventually started focusing on the more realistic goal of competing at the collegiate level. Getting into a school that’s competitive in gymnastics means going through a rigorous recruiting process.
After years of work, Taylor had finally reached Level 10 in the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympics program. However, after competing in her first meet at that level, she broke her foot during practice, putting her out the rest of her junior year season. This was a devastating setback because junior year is the prime time for scouts and recruitments, and she only had one meet’s worth of statistics.
Taylor was convinced that her injury had stolen any chance of continuing her dream at the college level. “I thought it was too late, so I tried to convince myself that I would just have a good Level 10 season during senior year and stop after that,” she says.
When she finally got back to the gym, it was already summer. Taylor was anxious about getting her skills back. “I was stressing so much that I was working backward,” she admits. Her coach advised her to stop worrying about college and just focus on getting her skills back for her, not a college scout. She says, “It was pretty much decided that college was not happening at that point.”
A mid-August surprise got Taylor’s hopes back up again. A coach from Centenary College of Louisiana contacted her after seeing some of her Level 9 regional meet performances on YouTube and was wondering if she was still looking for somewhere to go to school. After a couple months of exchanging emails, Centenary asked her to come down to take a tour and meet the team. “It was crazy because it seemed so late,” she says.
In October, the Centenary coach offered Taylor a spot on the team, and Taylor immediately accepted, making her dream of 15 years a reality.
Taylor’s injury that came during her most crucial year was the hardest challenge she had to face as a gymnast but was certainly not the only one. Showing up for long practices day after day on top of schoolwork and trying to have a social life has required years of dedication and focus. Taylor admits that finding balance is always challenging and that late nights are common.
Through all of the work, sweat, feats, and falls, she has had her teammates to boost her up. These are the girls that have been with her through it all and continually push her to be her best. “We cheer each other on because we know how important the team is to making sure each one of us is successful,” she says.
Every day in the gym has made Taylor Ann Wilson into who she is today. She says her life as a gymnast has taught her one major lesson: fall seven times, get up eight. It’s that lesson that pushed her to come back after her injury, and it’s that lesson that will make her a success as she fulfills her dream as a collegiate athlete.
By Chloe Webster
Photo by Tindall Stephens