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Gymnastics athlete of the year: Shelby Smiley, Palmer Ridge
In 13 years of gymnastics, Lewis-Palmer junior Shelby Smiley has endured her share of injuries. Unfortunately, one to her elbow prevented her from performing in the vault finals of the Class 5A state meet Nov. 5 in Thornton.
Looking back, Smiley might look at this as a blessing in disguise.
Now that her elbow has healed, along with a stress fracture in her foot that hampered her early in the season, Smiley has turned her attention to helping prevent injuries to her classmates as an athletic trainer.
“Being an athlete, and knowing what it’s like to get injured, I understand how they feel,” Smiley said. “I got into training because I think it’s really cool to help people. I’d like to enter the field of medicine, maybe nursing.”
Smiley, 17, who trains at Sundance Studio in Monument, joined the Palmer Ridge co-op program with Lewis-Palmer as a sophomore but missed the state cut. One year later, she competed in every event but found her mark in the vault. She finished 15th after the first day of competition, good enough to be invited back for the finals.
Except her injured elbow turned her into a spectator.
Still, she focused on the positives of the Bears’ season.
“It was kind of tough trying to stay healthy,” Smiley said. “Overall, the year went pretty well. We had three girls at the state meet, and it was exciting to compete. I was happy with our competition at state.”
With one more year, Smiley looks forward to being a senior and further getting the word out about Palmer Ridge gymnastics. With so few schools in the Pikes Peak region competing in the sport, she feels obliged to wear the hat of marketing and advertising representative in addition to gymnast.
“Still, not many people know about what we do, Smiley said. “All the advertising of our meets comes from us as a team. More people need to hear about the program if we’re going to compete with the Denver schools. It’ll take time, but we’ll have the majority of the team back with us next year.”
After that, however, Smiley plans on putting gymnastics in the rear-view mirror as her pursuit toward a career in the medical field takes center stage.
“I don’t want to do gymnastics in college,” Smiley said. “I would rather put my emphasis on academics and see where the gymnastics goes from there. It’s a combination of being a little burned out and injured a lot. It definitely gets harder as you get older, and it’s easier to get hurt when you’re older.”
Until then, she’ll gain experience as a trainer. Her trials as an athlete certainly have prepared her for a step in that direction.