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Jones looks at Penn State for gymnastics

September 25, 2014
By J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Jessica Jones, 18, a senior at Canfield High School and daughter of Linda and Rich Jones, has given a verbal commitment to continue her gymnastics career at Penn State University next fall. She is a top performer at Youngstown Gymnastic Center in Boardman.

Jones said she began her gymnastics career at 2 years old. She has stayed with it for the past 16 years and plans to take it to the next level in college.

''I started in the Mommy and Me classes at YGC,'' she said. ''Now I compete in the highest level, level 10.''

Article Photos

Photos by J.T. Whitehouse
Jessica Jones performs on the parallel bars at Youngstown Gymnastic Center in Boardman. Jones is a level 10 athlete, the highest gymnastics category for top performers.

Jones has been a level 10 performer for the past six years. Gymnasts compete at various levels depending on their age and their abilities. Level 10 is the top and represents the best athletes who can handle the tougher competitions.

''I started working with her when she was seven,'' said coach Sandy Sabo. ''From the beginning, I noticed she was very focused and wanted to do everything right. Her consistent daily efforts allowed her to advance very quickly through the levels of gymnastics and also allowed her to participate in a special program conducted by USA Gymnastics National Staff called T.O.P.S. (Talent Opportunity Program Selection). This program tests young athletes on their physical abilities at a young age and allows them to advance to special training camps in Houston, Texas, to work with the USA Gymnastics National Staff. Jessica qualified to these special camps at ages 9, 10 and 11.''

Jones had tried dancing and soccer, but because of the demand of gymnastics, she decided early on to focus on it. Gymnasts normally put in 20-plus hours a week training and perfecting their skills.

Gymnastics also require a lot of traveling. Jones has been to Columbus, Chicago, Michigan and Florida to compete. Since becoming a level 10 competitor, she has had to compete as the lone representative of YGC. This year, more girls have moved up to level 10, and Jones won't have to go at it alone.

''This year, we should have six level 10 athletes,'' Sabo said. ''Jessica will get a chance to compete on a team before she leaves us.''

Jessica's accomplishments in gymnastics include many state, regional and national titles. The past two seasons have ended in disappointment when she suffered from ischial tuberosity injuries both years around her state meets. These injuries kept her from competing in her state, regional and national meets the past two seasons.

Her ''come back'' season was in 2014, when she competed well and qualified to USA Gymnastics level 10 nationals held in Jackson, Miss. Jessica has finished her offseason training and is now gearing up for her last Junior Olympic level 10 competitive season before going off to college next year.

When looking at colleges, Jones checked out Penn State, Ohio State, University of Michigan, Arizona State and the University of Arkansas. She visited each campus and looked at the programs before making a decision.

''I felt Penn State was the best fit for me,'' she said. ''It was also a good fit for the academic side.''

Jones plans to major in kinesiology and exercise science and plans to become a physical therapist or other form of sports medicine.

Penn State offered Jones a full-ride scholarship, which Sabo said comes from her hard work ethic.

While Jones has made the verbal commitment, she will be officially signing her letter of intent at the gym on Nov. 19. Sabo said she plans on having a short party for her that day.

''I have been at YGC for 11 years, and this is my first-ever college signing in gymnastics,'' Sabo said.



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