Surreal was the word both Hahnville freshman gymnast Kamryn Ryan and coach Courtney Grabert used to describe their feeling following Ryan’s most recent win. “When they called her name (over the PA system) the first time, it didn’t really set in,” Grabert said. “You’re thinking, ‘oh, she did really well.’
“Then you quickly realize, ‘no … she did more than that. She just won state.’”
Ryan captured the Division I all-around girls gymnastics championship at the LHSAA Sugar Bowl girls gymnastics meet in Shreveport, an accomplishment made even more notable by the fact the freshman overcame numerous upperclassmen to take the crown and that she was not only the first Hahnville gymnast to compete at state, but that this season was the first time the school had ever competed in gymnastics at all.
Ryan earned both the state’s top overall honors and also titled in three individual events, earning the state’s top marks in the vault, bars and floor events to mark a truly dominating performance.
“We thought we were just going for the experience,” Grabert said. “First-year school, first-year gymnast, and here she is sweeping the floor with everything. It was overwhelming.”
“We didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “It just feels really good. I’m really proud of myself. I’ve never experienced that before and it made me feel like all my hard work had finally paid off.”
Ryan has performed in gymnastics since the age of 4 and quickly evolved into a phenom. Before turning 10, she captured first place in the National Judges Cup Gymnastics Championships, which she said was the point she realized she might have something special.
Hahnville did not offer gymnastics prior to this season, making Ryan the pioneer for the sport at her school.
Grabert, who taught Ryan in middle school, was approached to be the first gymnastics coach at HHS with her familiarity with the freshman in mind. She was eager to take on the task.
“Kamryn’s just a good kid,” Grabert said. “She makes good grades and she has a good personality. (Establishing a team) was something we were eager to do for her because we know as dedicated as she is to gym, she can’t participate in an abundance of school activities. So we were eager to get the ball rolling for her.
“Of course, she went out and rocked it.”
That didn’t mean Ryan didn’t have to quiet some nerves within her, though.
“I was pretty nervous,” Ryan admitted. “I was representing my high school and felt I had Hahnville on my back. I was really excited to compete. I tried to stay focused and just have fun.”
She did a fine job silencing those nerves. Ryan not only won the overall crown, but she did it by a large margin. Her all-around score of 37.900 bested the runner-up, St. Thomas More’s Victoria Vincent, by .450, a significant margin in gymnastics. Vincent herself was significantly ahead of two competitors tied for third place by .700.
Ryan scored 9.450 on the vault, 9.600 on the bars and 9.700 on the floor to earn first place in each. The lone event she did not top the rankings was the beam, her score of 9.150 placing her sixth.
The floor event, she says, is her favorite.
“I feel like I can throw my personality out there and not be so serious like in all the other events,” she said.
A level 10 gymnast, Ryan’s skills didn’t just appear overnight — just after many, many of them, each filled with hard work. She practices from 4 to 8 p.m. each night, and she intensified her training once she was told she would be representing HHS this season.
Her passion for her art has fueled her climb.
“I feel like gymnastics makes me a better person, inside and out,” Ryan said. “I’m able to persevere and overcome my fears and do things that don’t come easily to me.”
When Ryan’s name was first called at state, it gave she and Grabert an initial jolt.
But then they kept calling her name.
“We were ecstatic,” Grabert said. “We had a nice little cheering section for her. It was funny because they called her for the first one, and before she could get back to her seat, they called her for second one.
“It was an overwhelming experience, because you know she’s good, but the way the meet flows, you only watch one small group of girls. You think, ‘OK, Kamryn’s the best in her group, but this one girl is not too, too far behind.’ We hadn’t seen everyone else. Then, oh my gosh, not only did she win one, but she won four.”
Grabert said others seemed surprised, too.
“You know, the way this usually works, they just see Kamryn is a first-year gymnast (at state) and kind of write her off,” Grabert said. “Then her name gets called and it’s, ‘oh! Maybe we needed to watch her a little closer.’”
Now, Ryan will be the inspiration for future gymnasts at Hahnville, of which, Grabert notes, a few are already upcoming.
But Ryan will forever be the school’s first gymnast — and gymnastics champion.