Cedar Park represented at Junior Olympic level

Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

      Winter 2010 means one thing for many sports fanatics; the winter Olympics are here. While watching the Olympic games, it is not hard to see the amount of passion, dedication and hard work that goes into the lives of these athletes.

     Kevin Fraser, senior at CPHS, knows a thing or two about hard work. He trains five days a week, four hours a day with teammates who all compete at the Junior Olympic level.

     The Junior Olympic Games, conducted by the Amateur Athletic Union, are known as the largest multi-sport national event in the country. Young, talented athletes from all over the country compete in the events every year as long as they meet the requirements, in terms of skill level and age group. Junior Olympic gymnasts compete in age group levels four through ten.

     “I’m a level ten now, which is the highest level of Junior Olympics before the elite level,” Fraser said.

     Fraser began gymnastics at the age of five, joining Capital Gymnastics along with his two sisters, and at age nine he moved to Acrotex to begin competitive gymnastics. He was motivated to compete in the Junior Olympics by older members of Acrotex who were Junior Olympic athletes.

     Though competing in the Junior Olympics requires much commitment to the sport, Fraser does not necessarily intend to take his career to the Olympic level. Regional and national level gymnasts are judged on overall scores based on six events, and most gymnasts participating in the Olympics compete in all six of these events.

     “I’ve kind of been forced to do all six, and I don’t really like a few of them,” Fraser said. “I think I’m just going to go to college and specialize in a few that I like, which will probably take me out of the Olympics.”

     Fraser has been accepted academically to the University of Michigan as well as offered a walk-on spot on their gymnastics team. Though he has put so much effort and passion into the sport, Fraser has other goals in life.

     “I’ve always dreamed of opening a big gym and coaching, but I don’t know because I’m really interested in medicine also, and that can take up a lot of time,” Fraser said. “I think that’s what I’ll go to school for, then come back and maybe become a lower-level coach.”

     Fraser isn’t the only CPHS student with passion for their sport; Linda Steinhardt and Hope Lemon, freshmen, also compete at the Junior Olympic level in volleyball. Both ladies play volleyball in school as well as at the Austin Junior Volleyball girls’ club.

     Lemon, who began as a cheerleader until she quit cheerleading for volleyball in sixth grade, was motivated simply by the love of the game.

     “I just got really into club volleyball, and I wanted to keep going,” Lemon said, “I never wanted it to stop.”

     Lemon’s plans for the future do not extend beyond the realm of college volleyball. The height requirement for Olympic-level volleyball players can be a major setback in their careers, as it is in Lemon’s case.

     “I would definitely say that volleyball is my passion, and I want to play in college for sure,” Lemon said. “I’d like to do the Olympics, but only if I grow.”

     Linda Steinhardt began volleyball even earlier than the usual sixth-grade route. Her family was involved with the sport early on because of Steinhardt’s older sister. Steinhardt began playing as early as four and joined her first club team in fifth grade. She now plays for the Austin Juniors Volleyball girls’ club along with Lemon, but on separate teams in the ‘Girls-15’ age division.

     Though the Junior Olympics have proved to be a rewarding experience for dedicated athletes, it is not something that anyone can participate in without passion for their sport.

     “Pick a sport that you’re dedicated to and don’t mind spending all that time working on,” Fraser said.

     So while most Cedar Park students would prefer to support the Olympic games from the couch, these students have taken their ambitions to the next level, which certainly deserves much recognition and admiration.