Zachary Myers’ gymnastics talent became apparent early on.
When he was just 3, he was doing flips on the couch and performing perfect cartwheels throughout the family’s Lutz home, his parents said.
He’d even tumble around the fields at Oscar Cooler Sports Complex during his Lutz Little League baseball days.
“We could see the natural ability in him,” said his father, Andy Myers. “He’s just got freakish ability.”
During four years of organized gymnastics, the 10-year-old has racked up his fair share of accolades.
He’s captured three state titles and two regional titles as a Level 4, 6 and 7 gymnast, along with winning numerous other local events.
His biggest achievement so far came last November.
That’s when he made the USA Gymnastics National U10 Development Team, after a 14th place finish at the Future Stars National Championships at the USA Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Only the top 16 finishers earned a spot on the development team.)
Zachary’s next big event comes Oct. 13, when he’ll compete in the 2018 Region 8 Future Stars and Technical Sequence Evaluation at Evo’s Gymnastics, in Sarasota.
Scoring at least a 76 will again get him to the Future Stars National Championships.
A trip back to Colorado Springs is well within reach.
Zachary recently posted an 82 at the Florida Future Stars Evaluation — the highest mark in the state.
He’s shooting for an even higher score at the region qualifier, as he fine-tunes his training at LaFluer’s Gymnastics, in Tampa.
Said Zachary: “My goal is to get an 85 at regionals. That is a 9.2 average. My coach also wants me to get that to try to make that my goal.”
The young gymnast doesn’t have to look far to see where he gets some of his talent.
His mother, Deanna Myers, herself is a former gymnast and a two-time member of the USA Women’s Junior Olympic Team.
Forced to retire at 18 due to nagging wrist and ankle injuries, she coached and judged gymnastics throughout nursing school.
Deanna, however, was always hesitant about putting Zachary into gymnastics, understanding the commitment and dedication required for success.
She finally agreed after Zachary’s relentless pleading to get lessons.
Deanna explained: “I didn’t want Zachary missing out on things. When he first said he wanted to do gymnastics, I just kind of brushed it off. But, he consistently asked me for six months straight and then I was like, ‘OK, maybe I need to go ahead and take him.’”
Zachary’s passion for gymnastics remains strong
Though he sometimes misses playing baseball and time for other activities, he wouldn’t trade gymnastics for anything.
“I mean, I really like doing it. It’s just really fun once you get like really good at it,” Zachary said, noting he gets a lot of support from his fellow teammates at LaFleur’s.
His favorite event is the pommel horse, an apparatus fitted with a pair of curved handgrips, used for a gymnastic exercise consisting of swings of the legs and body.
“I like the agility if it. I get to move around and use my arms,” he said. “I used to play baseball and I used to have a lot of arm strength, and I like pommels because I can use my arms.”
That strength — combined with his mental focus and flexibility— has molded him into an elite gymnast for his age group.
LaFleur’s Gymnastics instructor Steven Schmerber said Zachary’s success is a “combination of a lot of things.
“He just kind of has this natural ability,” said Schmerber. “Even though all our other kids (at LaFluer’s) are still doing really well, he kind of has that little extra ‘oomph’ that just kind of pushes him a little bit.
“He’s a tiny dude—very flexible, very strong— so his strength to weight ratio is very big,” the coach added.
Hard work is also part of the equation.
Zachary practices six days a week, for more than 20 hours per week.
During the summer, he’ll practice as much as five hours per day.
When Zachary’s not perfecting his gymnastics routine, he’s buried in his studies.
As a fifth-grader at McKitrick Elementary School in Lutz, Zachary is a member of the National Elementary Honor Society. He has made the principal’s honor roll multiple times and he serves on the school’s safety patrol.
“He doesn’t need any push,” Deanna said. “He does everything without us asking him, so he’s self-motivated on his own. We don’t have to give him any pep talk. We don’t have to remind him to do anything. We don’t have to be concerned or ask him, ‘Hey, did you do your homework?’ because we already knows it’s been done.”
Deanna, meanwhile, is happy to see her son flourish in the sport she also loves. She’s his biggest fan and cheerleader.
“It’s exciting,” she said, “but I have to say, I’m more nervous watching him than when I ever was when I competed. My nerves are more watching him because I have no control, and I can’t go out on the floor.”
While many boys his age are wrapped up in video games and other toys, Zachary is mapping out his gymnastics future.
He’s shooting for a scholarship at Stanford, Michigan or Oklahoma universities.
He dreams of qualifying for the 2028 Summer Olympics and following in the footsteps of his idol, Sam Mikulak, a five-time U.S. national all-around champion and two-time Olympian.
His plan to achieve those lofty goals?
“Try my hardest,” he said, “and don’t give up.”
For information on Zachary’s fundraising efforts to nationals, visit tinyurl.com/ydhwpoxc.
Published October 10, 2018