As a lifelong gymnast, Valley City’s Taylor Johnson is no stranger to pulling off a routine.
But entering this weekend, the USA Gymnastics Level 8 athlete had a few butterflies.
Rather than a small competition at one of the numerous gyms around North Dakota, she’ll be taking the floor at the Minneapolis Convention Center for the USAG Region 4 Championships.
“I’m probably just going to get a good experience out of it,” Johnson, 13, said. “It’d be cool if I placed.”
It’s a trip that only a handful of members of the Valley Twisters have ever taken.
She qualified for it by posting an all-around score of 34.150 at the state meet three weeks ago, which placed her sixth overall.
The state meet consisted of a second place finish on the floor, a third place finish on the beam, a sixth place finish on the bars and eighth place on the vault.
Her mother, Jan Johnson, said it’s a feat made all the more admirable by the short timeframe she accomplished it in — Taylor had less than a month after the high school season ended to qualify for state.
“After high school we had one week for her first USAG meet. It was the first weekend in March,” Jan Johnson said. “Then, two weeks after that, she had one more meet. She had two meets to qualify for state and they needed a 32 to qualify.”
Once she qualified for state, she then had only two more weeks to prepare for the state meet, at which she upped her all-around score two full points.
Jan Johnson attributed the improvements to Valley Twisters coach Jon Liardi, who helped Taylor improve her form, particularly on the bars.
“Once you get a bad habit in gymnastics, it’s hard to break it,” Jan said. “But she broke through it and that’s why when we watched her we were just like, ‘Oh my gosh.’
“When we saw her open up her clear hips and straighten out her giants, we were just like ‘Wow. Is that Taylor?’”
Taylor said her training with Liardi is “the only reason I made it to regionals.”
Regarding the regional meet, Taylor didn’t think she’d make it going in simply because she’d been putting together lower scores in the other meet.
But with the habits broken and skills learned throughout the month, she put together a qualifying score and will be joining a cousin at the meet.
Now that she’s made it, she said she’s nervous most about competing with people from other states — namely Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
Though there’s always the potential to place, Taylor plays it modestly.
“I’m just hoping I don’t fall or anything,” she said. “I don’t want to be the worst one there.”