Last June, two Lawrence fourth-graders, Natalie Rainbolt and Ally Clancy, began training more than 16 hours a week with Kansas Gymnastics and Cheer gymnastics squad in Olathe.
And on Saturday their training paid off.
The two girls competed in the United States Gymnastics Association Kansas state tournament in Wichita, where Rainbolt and Clancy spun and twirled their way to outstanding finishes.
In the eight- and nine-year-old division, Rainbolt finished first in floor with a 9.5, first in beam with a 9.525, second in bar with a 9.5 and placed third in vault with a 9.0.
For her efforts, Rainbolt finished first in the all-around competition by scoring a 37.525.
While Rainbolt came up just short of her goal of scoring a 38.0 in the all-around competition, her accomplishments are nonetheless terrific. Last year at the state meet, Rainbolt competed in the Level 5 category and finished first in beam and second in the all-around. But this year she took home medals in Level 6 competitions, and the KGDC finished second in the meet.
"I thought it was good," Rainbolt said of her performance. "I wish I could have done better at vault."
Clancy, also in the eight-and nine-year-old division, meanwhile finished third in the floor competition by scoring a 9.225, fourth in vault with an 8.95 and fifth in bars with an 8.6. Clancy's performances were good enough for a respective fourth place finish in the overall, scoring a 35.775.
Like Rainbolt, Clancy also qualified for the state meet last year and Clancy placed fifth in beam and fourth in vault. She said the competition she faced this time around made her accomplishments even more satisfying.
"The competition was harder, but I didn't feel that nervous," she said.
Clancy said that her own success as a gymnast may not have happened without the help of Rainbolt.
"She supports me a lot," Clancy said.
The two girls often rode in the same car and stayed at the same hotels when they were traveling to various meets. And with all the hours the two have spent together, the two have become close friends.
"We love to go to places together and compete against each other," Clancy said, noting that they enjoy hanging out and going to movies.
A busy practice schedule and commuting five hours a week kept the girls busy over the past nine months. Quite often, Clancy packed her own lunch at 7 a.m. and would not return home until late at night.
"It's kind of difficult," Clancy said. "I just have to make sure I'm on time, and I have everything ready."
But the girls have not let their schedules affect their schoolwork. The two are good students, but if Clancy could choose between school and gymnastics, she said the choice is an easy one.
"I like being a gymnast better, but school is important," she said.
While Clancy spent much of her spring break preparing to go to Wichita, she found a little relaxation time Sunday morning fishing with her dad. Clancy said that occasionally when she has time she likes to go fishing, but don't expect her to trade in her gymnastics uniform just yet.
And now that their season is over, the girls will continue practicing throughout the spring and summer and will begin practicing their routines for next year's meet this fall.
But Clancy said the busy schedule is tolerable because she gets to do what she enjoys most.
"I love being a gymnast," she said. "It's really fun and you learn a lot of things."