Gymnastics is a Ponto family thing, starting with mom Colleen and dad Scott competing in college and continuing with Kailie grasping onto the sport as a child. Now age 16, the Inglemoor High sophomore is going full force on the bars, beam, floor and vault.
“She’s way beyond my days, the sport has changed so much in 30 years,” said Colleen, a University of Washington alum; Scott attended the University of Michigan. “I think she surpassed my skill level five years ago. She’s a dancer, she so graceful. She’s a performer, too.”
Kailie took her Level-10 beam skills to the top (9.65) with a first-place finish at last month’s 2009 Junior Olympic National Championships in Puyallup. She took 24th all around with 37.275.
Beam was Kailie’s last event at nationals, and she led the pack after the first flight. She noted that some of her fellow teammates at Leading Edge in Everett competed in her flight and gave her confidence to do well.
“It made it easier to be there — I was excited rather than nervous. We compete with each other and we’re all kind of in it together,” said Kailie, who went to nationals on her own last year in Florida. “I thought I had all my skills straight (this year). I felt that it was the best I had done all season, and it was a good spot to do it at nationals.
“Even if I didn’t win, it was still the best I could do.”
Added Colleen with a smile: “She totally nailed it. Watching, you get choked up. It’s more difficult being a parent than being a gymnast because the athlete has the control.”
With four grandparents — including two from Buffalo, NY — and the rest of her family in attendance, Kailie held on to first place after the second flight of gymnasts performed and received her winner’s medal. It was the highlight of her career so far, and she noted that all the hard work paid off.
Kailie, who began gymnastics classes at age 2, works out 25 hours a week at Leading Edge and hopes to land a full-ride college scholarship. She competes at the highest youth level now, with elite being the top of the line for college gymnasts and Olympians.
She enjoys the friendships and the adrenaline rush that come with gymnastics and hopes to coach kids someday.
For now, Kailie’s plan is “just to learn more difficult skills, be positive and keep trying.”