New Oxford senior Libby Groden loves painting and drawing and plans on majoring in Fine Arts in college. But she also excels in another form of art: gymnastics
Whether it is tiptoeing across the balance beam, gliding through the air on the uneven bars or performing a beautifully choreographed floor routine that many would consider a masterpiece, Groden has nearly perfected the art of gymnastics.
And that hard work, dedication and passion or gymnastics led her to sign a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday for a full athletic scholarship to Rutgers University.
“Sometimes I still don’t think it is real,” said Groden, surrounded by scarlet red and 30 fellow gymnasts at the Hanover YMCA Gymnastics Center . “But then it hits me that it is and I think, ‘ Man, this has all been worth it.’”
Her journey began eight years ago, when Groden began gymnastics.
“At first when I started gymnastics, it was just something to do at 10 years old that I thought was fun,” she said. “A few years ago, I thought I really want to do this in college, and thought I would try to get money for this if I could.”
That’s when she traded her social life for a deeper commitment. She practices from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 everyday except for Friday and Sunday. On Saturday she practices from 9:00 am until 2:00 p.m.
“There have definitely been a lot of sacrifices.” she said
But telling her friends she could not hang out paid off with a scholarship to Rutgers, which finished seventh in its conference meet last year.
“I don’t think some people understand my commitment or how hard we work in here, but it has all paid off,” she said.
Rutgers began recruiting Groden as a junior, and she took several unofficial visits there. She knew she wanted to be a Scarlet Knight after her official visit in October
“It just felt right,” Groden said.
She chose Rutgers over William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Both were offering about the same amount of scholarship money, she said, but Rutgers increased its offer after it announced it would join the Big Ten.
An opportunity to attend college for free and compete at the Big Ten level was just too much for Groden to turn down. The conference had four of the top 15 programs, according to the NCAA’s most recent poll.
“Definitely,” she said referring to whether Rutgers to the Big Ten impacted her decision. “At the Big Ten, it is a little more prestigious than some of the other leagues that gymnastics is in.”
Groden plans to continue competing in all four events (bars, vault, beam and floor) in college. While she enjoys each event, bars is her favorite.
“It makes me happy that I love bars because I used to be awful at it,” she said. “Three years ago I did not even have a bar set and now it is my most successful event.”
She becomes the first female gymnast from the Hanover YMCA’s gymnastics program to earn a full athletic scholarship. Her talent was apparent quickly to one of her many coaches, Irina Koroleva.
“She was jumping from level to level very quick,” Koroleva said. “Her potential was very good for gymnastics. It is not about potential only, she is a very smart girl. She has a strong, good family, and this is the end result.”
So as Groden signed her National Letter of Intent, 30 other gymnasts watched with the hope that all of their hard work would eventually earn them a scholarship.
Groden, however, went back to the bars to hone her skills. She knows touch competition is ahead of her
“Right now I am just working on being consistent with the skills that I have,” she said. “Hit things I know that I can hit instead of doing the big skill that is kind of risky.”