By Lee Noles
INDIAN TRAIL – A gymnast’s life isn’t easy. There are long hours of training, nagging injuries and sacrificed time with family and friends all in hopes of reaching dreams that can be dashed by a missed step or small wobble.
It’s a world Kiley Rorich has loved ever since her first gymnastics class at 3 years old.
“That is what drives me,” Rorich said. “I want to do well. My motivation in the gym is to keep improving.”
Rorich garnered national attention in March when the Union County resident won the junior division at the Nastia Liukin Cup in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The nationally televised competition brings together top gymnasts in junior and senior levels in the United States with the winner determined by the highest scores from four events.
“I was not expecting to win at all,” said Rorich, who is 15 years old. “But I was very pleased with how I did and the outcome.”
Rorich’s involvement in gymnastics started after her mother, Amy, noticed her daughter regularly turning the family couch into her own personal trampoline. The extra exuberance was enough for Amy to enroll her only child into a gymnastics class for preschoolers in Boca Raton, Florida.
“It was a good way to stop me from jumping around on all the furniture in the house,” Rorich said.
Rorich quickly graduated from the preschool classes and began participating in competitive meets by the time she was 6 years old. She has won several regional competitions, but her biggest accomplishment was standing on the podium at the Nastia Liukin Cup.
Rorich was in the top 10 after her floor exercise before solid outings on the vault and uneven bars moved her into the top 3. She scored a 9.675 on the balance beam to solidify her first win at a national meet.
“There is a lot of pressure and I focused on what I did in the gym,” Rorich said. “And do what I have done for so long, and it played out the way I had hoped.”
The past year has been an emotional roller coaster for Rorich. She recovered from a fractured wrist in August and has not practiced since March because of the stay-at-home-orders from COVID-19.
Rorich stays in shape by jumping rope and doing sit-ups while increasing her cardiovascular workouts to include running.
“It was definitely difficult because we are used to being in the gym up to four and half hours a day,” says Rorich, who trains at Southeastern Gymnastics in Weddington. “We are all trying to stay in shape, so when we go back into the gym, it won’t be too difficult.”
Balancing sport and school is something Rorich does well as the rising junior at Sun Valley High is an honor roll student and member of the school’s Beta Club. Her coaches have been great about giving her time off from practice to focus on schoolwork.
“It’s difficult and I manage to get everything done,” Rorich said. “I have learned to manage my time better and manage when I need to do my homework and when I need to do gymnastics.”
Rorich still lives a normal life as a teenager despite her major commitment to gymnastics. She likes cooking, hiking and eating her mom’s homemade lasagna. She enjoys watching “Grey’s Anatomy,” but most of all walking her pet pig, Lucy.
“It’s definitely different than a dog,” Rorich said. “And it’s not your typical household pet, but we take it on walks with us and it cuddles with us. So, it is similar to a dog.”
Another big goal for Rorich happened last year when she verbally committed to the University of Denver for gymnastics. The Pioneers finished fourth at the NCAA championship in 2019.
“It was definitely the family atmosphere and I loved the campus so much,” Rorich said. “When I was looking at colleges, I wanted a place that was small, and it is a small campus. But the family atmosphere the team has is great.”