Wesley Chapel gymnast claims four state titles
By Kyle LoJacono
Wesley Chapel 12-year-old Sam Showalter knew it was one of her
best overall performances when she nailed the roundoff back handspring on her
It was the last move of the last event of the Florida AAU
Gymnastics State Championship at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach April 28.
She also felt confident about her work in the vault, bars and beams, the first
three competitions of the day, respectively.
“All the scores I got were higher than any other score I’ve
gotten at that level, so I knew I was doing really well,” Sam said. “I thought
I’d be able to get first place in some of them.”
She had to wait almost an hour to get the official word on how
she placed, but it was well worth the 60 minutes.
Sam, a sixth grader at John Long Middle and student at East
Pasco Gymnastics in Zephyrhills, claimed titles in all four events and was
crowned the overall state champion for her age group.
“Until we were at the awards I never really anticipated her
taking overall first place,” said Sam’s mom Monica Showalter. “We were so proud
of how she did because it was her best performance overall and in such a big
event. … We were a little surprised when she placed first in the vault, which
was the first given out. Then when we heard she got first in the bars the tears
started coming, and they didn’t stop until it was all over.”
Sam said she was most surprised to take top honors in the bars;
the event she struggles with the most. One particular move gives her trouble —
the squat on where competitors stand upon the low bar and jump toward the
“Once I’d made that I knew I’d done really well in it,” Sam
said. “I really wanted to do the squat on right because I usually fall
backwards instead of forwards over the bar, but I did it there.”
Sam had taken a gold in the floor exercises, her best event,
while competing at level four during a previous state championship. This year
she moved up to modified optional, which is the equivalent of a level seven,
where competitors create their own routines.
“That’s a lot higher than what I’d done before at level four,”
Sam said. “The jump is huge. You go from little baby routines to making up your
own routines with back flips and all this new stuff. It’s a big difference. … I
knew moving up I’d be competing against a whole new level of girls. They were
all better than me, so I really had to work hard to get close to them because
they’ve been doing it longer.”
The quadruple threat started doing gymnastics at age 6. She was
a ballet dancer for about a year, but was looking for something more
competitive to spend her free time.
“I wanted something more physical and active,” Sam said. She
added, “I don’t know how to put it into words. I like all the energy involved
and the adrenalin that you feel when I’m doing a routine.”
Monica has no gymnastics experience.
“We don’t know where she gets it from,” Monica said. “Definitely
not from me and definitely not from Dad (Wesley).”
Sam practices for two hours three days a week. She mixes in 100
push-ups and 100 sit-ups each day she isn’t at the gym.
The efforts paid off at states, which is Sam’s final meet of the
“It was good for her to go out on a high note,” Monica said.
“It’s a boost of confidence because she’s done well before, but never like
The next season begins in January. Sam also recently tried out
for the John Long cheerleading team and will learn this week if she made the
squad. She plans on doing the same when she enters Wiregrass Ranch High.
Either way, the prodigy has no interest in giving up her hours
in the gym.
“It’s something I want to spend all my free time doing because
it’s the best,” Sam said. “There’s nothing else like it.”