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The City Journals

South Jordan gymnast leaps toward her dreams

Mar 23, 2020 04:33PM ● By Libby Allnatt

Antonella Wachterdorff of South Jordan is a level-eight gymnast at age 12. She trains almost 35 hours a week and gets an education online through Utah Connections Academy. (Courtesy of Paola Repetto)

Libby Allnatt | [email protected]

Antonella Wachterdorff’s mother, Paola, proudly shows a video of her 12-year-old daughter performing a gymnastics routine. In the video, Antonella hurtles through the air before sticking the landing; her teammates rushing up to her to celebrate. This camaraderie is part of her gymnastics experience, which also involves travel, competitions and training almost 35 hours a week.

Antonella has been doing gymnastics since she was 7 years old.

“I started tumbling, and then I moved to gymnastics, and it was just for fun mostly,” she said.

Now, the South Jordan sixth grader is already a level-eight gymnast, out of 10 possible levels. Last year, she made it to the Utah state team (made up of the best in the state) and won second all-around at the competition in Reno, Nevada.

Antonella said her favorite to compete in is vault (https://www.topendsports.com/sport/list/gymnastics-vault.htm), an event that involves the athlete surging toward the apparatus, hurtling off a springboard and performing over the vault in different positions. Her favorite gymnastics move is the double-pike, two flips with straight legs.

“Some moves are kind of hard,” she said. “When the season is over, the thing that’s hard is starting to train for the next level because you have to get all of these bigger moves.”

Antonella trains at Olympus Gymnastics in South Jordan, participating in both the Elite Program and the Junior Olympic Program, Monday through Saturday. In addition to practicing their gymnastics moves, the athletes do some type of conditioning every day to strengthen their legs, arms and core.

With such a demanding training schedule, Antonella does school online through UtahConnections Academy. She studies and does schoolwork on her own time, typically Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the mornings, then after gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Her mother, Paola Repetto, found Utah Connections Academy after looking online for homeschool programs about a year and a half ago. It would allow Antonella to pursue gymnastics and still get a quality education. A traditional school setting would make it difficult to participate in the training programs because she couldn’t miss that much school, Paola said.

Teresa Beauregard, who does marketing for Utah Connections Academy, said the flexibility in schedule doesn’t lessen the rigor of the education.

“They actually take attendance and can only miss so much school before they have attendance issues,” she said. “But it gives them a parameter to work in that works for them. It’s really unique, but it’s really a great thing. It’s an up-and-coming thing for a lot of people, fulfilling a lot of needs for students looking for a setting where they can get a stellar education in a non-traditional brick-and-mortar setting.”

Beauregard said the school has about 1,100 students in the state, some of them young athletes, but not all.

“We have students that will be rodeo-ing in Tooele to ones that are doing gymnastics, competitive golf, all sorts of different things,” she said. “We also have students who have a lot of social anxiety; it’s very difficult for them to go into school settings. We fulfill a lot of different needs.”

Antonella said her favorite subjects are science and art, drawing and painting being some of her favorite hobbies. Her dream is to go to college at a school in California, such as UCLA. In the short term, she has her eye on some gymnastics milestones.

“There’s this thing called an all-around,” she said. “It’s your total score for every event. Last year, I had this goal of getting a 38. For a 38, you have to get a 9.5 or higher on everything. For this year, I’m going to try to get a 39, which is a 9.7 or higher.”

Her mother said she’s close to meeting that goal.

“I’m so proud of her,” Repetto said. “She has big goals; she’s working so hard. I don’t know how she does it.”