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Gymnastics: Pawleys girl wins five gold medals at state championships

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Caroline Warren likes to defy gravity. Last weekend she defied the odds as well.

The 14-year-old gymnast from Pawleys Island won five gold medals at the S.C. Gymnastics state championship in Rock Hill. A sweep of the four events and the all-around points category is a rare accomplishment, according to S.C. Gymnastics.

“It’s really an honor to be able to win a state title,” said Warren. “To win five is just an incredible opportunity.”

She finished with an all-around score of 37.375, more than a full point ahead of the silver medalist. In the four events she scored 9.4 on the balance beam, 9.075 in the uneven bars, 9.4 on the vault and 9.5 on the floor exercises.

“The beam was the most difficult to learn,” she said. “It’s only 4 inches wide and 16 feet long. It takes an incredible amount of focus. You can’t let any outside distractions in.”

The eighth-grader at Waccamaw Middle School started gymnastics just five years ago. She competes at Level 8 in a sport where Level 10 is the top.

Ashley Lamborn and Brian Johnson of Terry and Don’s Gymnastic Center in Socastee are Warren’s coaches. “They have taken a lot of girls from the Grand Strand region to the nationals,” she said.

Caroline puts in 20 hours a week of practice, her father, Andrew Warren, said. “Their commitment is enormous.”

He and his wife, Macon Warren, say that beyond the obvious pleasure in seeing their daughter sweep the medal categories the sport has other benefits.

“The nice thing from a parent standpoint is the goal-setting aspect,” Andrew said. “We try to take the pressure off her and tell her to have fun.”

Caroline said she loves the sport, which is drawing increased interest in this area.

“I enjoy for a split second being able to defy gravity,” she said. “You have to take one skill and build on it.”

Her wins at the state championship will send her to the eight-state regional competition next month in Atlanta. “The coaches told us to keep the right mindset and continue to practice diligently,” Caroline said, otherwise her preparation only requires “a few tweaks.”

Caroline had been working on a more difficult vault routine before the state competition, Andrew said. That would have given her the chance to gain more points, but it also came with an element of risk.

“It was giving her fits and she was working her way through it,” he said.

She decided to go for a simpler routine, but rely on execution to collect the points in the state competition, held at Winthrop University. It was a strategy that paid off. Her vault score was four-tenths of a point above the silver medalist.

“Vault is incredibly difficult,” Caroline said.

“It’s rare that someone does what she did,” Andrew said. “There was a lot of praying going on, but she did her part.”

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