BROOKINGS – Heading into the season, Aspen Peters wasn’t even thinking about competing in the USA Gymanstics Development Program National Championships. However, two months ago she did just that.
“I definitely [did not expect to qualify for Nationals] being a first year Level 10,” Aspen, of Brookings, said. “It’s definitely tricky to get in because it’s between the top-seven and you go from there.”
Peters is a Level 10 and had a 34 at State to qualify for Regionals. Regionals were held in Bettendorf, Iowa, and consisted of 12 other gymnasts in her age division from seven different states.
The top-seven from Regionals would advance to Nationals. Aspen placed fifth in Regionals and then traveled to Daytona, Florida, for Nationals and competed against 55 other gymnasts in her age group.
“I was really happy that I qualified. I was really surprised. I was just super excited to get the opportunity to go Nationals,” Aspen said.
This was a big deal for Aspen since she still has a lot of her gymnastics career left, but she struggled in her first trip to Nationals.
“She didn’t have the best showing,” Rebbeca Peters, Aspen’s mom and coach, said. “But for her it was more of the experience. She ended up falling three times on balance beam. She was still so excited to just be there. On a good day for her on balance beam she could’ve placed in the top 20, breaking into that. The kids that she goes against, some of them are bringing Olympians out of their gym, so they have a wide range of skills that they do and this is her first year.
“… To even just be there was a great experience for her. To be around that atmosphere and see others compete. She had good warmups and then it just fell apart in competition, but we know mental is hard thing with gymnastics as well. She did well on vault and floor though.”
Although she didn’t perform the best, Aspen said she enjoyed competing and learned from the experience.
“It was a really good experience,” she said. “I was super excited to just be out on the floor. I knew that there wasn’t always going to be a great chance of placing because it’s the top in the country, but I was just super excited to get that experience.”
In 2019, Aspen was a Level 9 and was having a really good season. She qualified for the Western Nationals, but chipped a bone in her ankle right before it and was unable to compete. Last year, she was a Level 9 again and had another good season. Rebecca believes that she would have made Nationals again, but it was cancelled due to COVID.
After all of that, Rebecca said she was happy and proud to finally see her daughter competing at Nationals.
“I was surprised she had a chance to make [Nationals] and I knew if she stayed on all four events at Regionals that she had a good chance to make [Nationals]. I was very happy for her and proud of her because she just worked so hard in the gym and puts in extra time and tries to get help from other coaches and is always wanting to get better. I was just very happy for her and proud of her,” Rebecca said.
Aspen trains at Gold Medal Gymnastics in Brookings and competes in club gymnastics. This was the first time that a gymnast from Gold Medal made it to Nationals.
Aspen’s goal for next season is to make it back to Nationals and perform a lot better.
“[To place at nationals] I definitely need to work on cleaning up skills and adding upgrades,” she said.