Gymnast Commits To University

Gymnast Commits To University
Pictured, from left, at last week’s letter of intent signing are Lawrence, Sarena and Deanna Michnick and Coach Carmela Solito. Photo by Shawn Soper

BERLIN — After battling back from an injury that caused her to briefly retire from the sport she loves, a local girl followed her dream last week and signed a letter of intent with a nationally-ranked university to compete in acrobatics and tumbling.

Sarena Michnick began training and competing in gymnastics at the age of four with the Twisters program in Berlin. Last week, Michnick signed a national letter of intent to continue her education and compete in acrobatics and tumbling at Fairmont State University, a nationally known program currently ranked sixth in the country.

Michnick was born and raised in Bishopville and attended Showell Elementary, Berlin Intermediate and finally Worcester Prep. However, once Michnick hit the high school level, she changed to homeschooling so that she could dedicate 40 hours a week to gymnastics, acrobatics and tumbling at Twisters in Berlin under the watchful eye of Carmela Solito and her staff.

Unlike some of the larger schools on the western shore, high schools on the Eastern Shore do not offer competitive gymnastic programs, so young standouts such as Michnick rely on programs like the highly successful Twisters program in Berlin to train and compete and get noticed by college coaches to continue their careers at the next level.

After several years, countless hours in the gym and hours on the road traveling to state, regional and national competitions, Michnick’s dream of competing at the college level came true last week when she signed a letter of intent with nationally-ranked Fairmont State University, but there was a time when it appeared the dream had all but ended for her. She had won numerous state awards as she moved through the different levels of gymnastics in Maryland and was on her way to making it to the college level when her journey took an unexpected turn.

She injured her back and had to retire from the sport when the pain became too great. Numerous coaches called Michnick to recruit her to attend and compete at their schools, unaware she had injured her back, and with each phone call Michnick had to tell the coaches she had retired.

However, at the end of September, the coach from Fairmont State called Michnick and asked about her injury. The coach was familiar with the specific injury Michnick had suffered because she had suffered the same injury herself which caused her to retire from the sport. The Fairmont State coach was not recruiting Michnick for traditional gymnastics, but rather for the school’s highly ranked acrobatics and tumbling team.

Acrobatic and tumbling utilize different skills and motions that are less taxing on the back and the coach urged Michnick to visit Fairmont State in West Virginia and see if it would be a good fit for her.

Over the month that followed, Michnick threw herself back into a rigorous training program to regain her form and balance. She quickly found out the back injury was not an issue and she regained her competitive form. As a result, numerous colleges and universities began calling again and recruiting her. Michnick visited a few schools, but ultimately decided Fairmont State was a good fit for her.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.