Unitt of success 10-year-old gymnast wins state crown
Give Jesse Unitt one season; he’ll bring home a state championship.
That’s what he did in his first year of competitive gymnastics, anyway. Unitt, now 10, won the Northern California Boys Gymnastics Association Level 4 State Championship in the 9-year-old age group March 10 in San Mateo.
“It’s exciting,” Unitt said Thursday at Gold Country Gymnastics in Grass Valley. “I was ready. (Coach) Dylan (Etievant) said we were ready, so I felt ready even more.”
Unitt’s confidence, however, didn’t arrive until less than a week remained before the event, according to his mother, Chris Unitt.
“Gymnastics is a very mental sport,” said Chris, who was a gymnast when she was Jesse’s age. “The last week before the meet, he somehow came to a decision that he was ready. Wednesday night, he got in the car after practice. I asked him how it went; I was expecting the usual, ‘Ah, OK.’ No. He said ‘I’m ready.’
“I almost hit a tree.”
Jesse went on to earn scores of higher than nine in each of the six events (9.250 on floor, 9.475 on pommel horse, 9.250 on rings, 9.100 on vault, 9.400 on parallel bars, 9.1 on high bars) for a total of 55.575 out of a possible 60.
Dalton Brooks, the second-place finisher from Oakland, was hot on Jesse’s tail with a 55.550 all-around score.
About 150 level-4 gymnasts competed in San Mateo, according to Gold Country Gymnastics owner Jeff Jenkins. Jesse practices three days a week at Jenkins’ gym and competes as part of a GCG team.
“It was very close,” Jenkins said of the state championships. “The second-place kid was only .025 behind. … It’s pretty competitive.”
Jesse said he enjoys the competitive atmosphere of the meets after spending his first two years of gymnastics essentially training.
He has never been involved in another sport.
“Knowing that you’re going to compete with other gyms, you have to focus more and work harder,” Jesse said.
Jesse said he plans to stick with gymnastics for a while; he’s already preparing for next season, when he’ll compete in level 5. Boys gymnastics seasons begin in December and end in March.
What keeps him hooked on the sport is “being active and being off the ground,” so his favorite event is rings.
Thanks to the Gold Country Gymnastics coaches’ idea that their gymnasts should spend equal time practicing each event, according to Chris, Jesse didn’t have to rely on rings to win.
“It was definitely his best meet of the season,” Jenkins said. “But he’s a pretty consistent performer. He’s always one of our top guys, so it wasn’t too big of a surprise, but it was pretty impressive that he got the win.”
Jesse and his teammates competed in seven invitationals before the state meet.
Joining Jesse in San Mateo from Gold Country Gymnastics were Jason Day, 9, Nathan Hunt, 8, Quinn Madaus, 8, Eli Wernigg, 7, Justin Alberts, 7, Jeremy Hunt, 6, and Jake Whitman, 6.
Madaus won the vault, Jeremy Hunt took second on the high bars, and Nathan Hunt placed third on the pommel horse.
“It’s pretty cool,” Jenkins said, “that somebody from a small town like this goes and beats all the guys from the Bay Area and Northern California.”
To contact Sports Writer Jeff Miller, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4247.
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