WAXHAW – The 2018 N.C. United States of America Gymnastics Championships turned out to be the latest in a long list of success stories for Jaden Blank, one of the state’s top gymnasts for his age group.
Blank, a 12-year-old seventh-grader at Marvin Ridge Middle School, has been involved with gymnastics since he was 2, when his mother, Jessica, signed him up for some basic gymnastics classes at a local gym.
Blank took to the sport immediately and has been making a name for himself ever since.
He has quickly moved up the ranks and is currently a Level 9 gymnast at Zenith Gymnastics, one of the few gyms in the Charlotte area that caters to mostly boys. Blank has moved up a level each year – even skipping Level 7 since he had already achieved the skill sets and disciplines needed to stay at the lower level.
This year Blank will have to stay at Level 9 due to age restrictions, but he is taking his competition to task as evidenced by his performance at the state championship, which was held March 9 to 11 in Hickory and was the latest of big competitions that advance him higher up the rankings.
Blank competes in seven to 10 bigger competitions like state, regional and national championships a year. He was certainly prepared for the atmosphere and left no doubt that he’s one of N.C.’s top gymnasts for his age group and skill set with his performance.
Blank ran away with four individual titles, taking state championships in the vault, high bars and parallel bars and tying for first on the rings. His floor exercise routine took third place – although it was just two-tenths of a point from earning him another individual crown.
All of that was good enough for first place in the all-around competition for his age group, a title that he won by nearly an entire point.
Blank did place 13th in the pommel horse, the weakest of his events at the state championships, but he was nonetheless pleased with how well he was able to do and especially so on such a big stage.
“I was really happy with how I did,” he said. “The pommel horse gives me the most trouble just because it takes a lot of endurance and I have had to go through my routines and everything. But I think I did pretty well in most everything else. The rings are what I like the best because I’ve been working on higher level skills recently.”
Blank typically spends 20 hours and six days a week at Zenith working on all of the six disciplines in gymnastics – the rings, pommel horse, floor exercises, high bars, vault and parallel bars – as he looks to climb even further up the state’s hierarchy of top gymnasts.
But he’s not alone.
Four other Zenith gymnasts – Mateo Fuentes-Quiroz, Jack Pacetti, Landon Shields and Jude Price – won all-around titles under the guidance of coaches Stass Savitch and Tom Lombardo. In addition, the gym also produced 25 other champions at the N.C. championships. Zenith Gymnastics, located at 8617 Monroe Road in Charlotte, is home to 54 boy gymnasts, 30 of which, including Blank, qualified for the regional championships.
Last year Blank did well enough at regionals to be invited to the national championships where he earned a 10th-place finish on the vault and placed 39th in the nation for his age group in the all-around competition.
Blank, who is also an Academic All-American, carries a 4.0 grade-point average and lists science as his favorite subject, is looking to get back and build on what was a very solid first performance on the national level. He is one of 15 gymnasts in the state who has earned a spot on the coveted N.C. Elite team, which will convene later this year, and is hoping that is the first step in achieving one of Blank’s gymnastics goals of competing in college.
“It’s all about getting to those bigger meets outside of the region because there are college coaches at those who are looking at the kids,” Jessica Blank said. “There are only about 17 schools that have college teams in the U.S., so it is a really tough sport to do in college considering there are so few schools that offer it. He is looking at Ohio State, Michigan and Oklahoma. Those are some of the top programs he’s hoping for, but it’s a long road because you never know.”
But Blank will continue to climb the ranks and perform at a high level and see where gymnastics takes him.
“I’m pretty happy with where I am right now, but I want to compete in college and eventually be chosen for the national team,” Blank said. “That and competing in college are my goals right now.”