MERRIFIELD -- In her senior year of high school Amanda Rau has sacrificed many things for a single goal -- to be the best gymnast she can be.
With no regrets, Rau has abandoned her leisure time in a pursuit to become a college gymnast. She left the friendly confines of the Brainerd Warrior team to join the St. Cloud Twisters, a gymnastics club that is part of the U.S. Gymnastics Association. It was a move that has helped her travel the country and gain exposure participating in gymnastics meets, but also a move that has kept her away from her friends.
On many days Rau even sacrifices lunch to get all of her classes in, all for a desire to continue in the sport she loves.
"I want to go to college," said Rau. "I'm not saying I'm going to get a scholarship, but I do want to compete in college gymnastics.
"I just want to be the best that I can be. I want to go to college and I don't have any placement goals because you can't always control what other people do. I do want to be at one of the top skill levels and be successful in college." -- Amanda Rau Gymnast with St. Cloud Twisters
"Club gymnastics is more advanced. The training is a lot more intense. Plus the atmosphere is better for me because it's really positive and it's more organized."
Rau wakes up early in the morning to prepare for school. With two classes at Central Lakes College, a Web design class she takes independently plus her high school curriculum, Rau usually doesn't get to eat lunch before 2 p.m.
After school Rau or her parents drive to St. Cloud where for five grueling hours she sharpens her skills in an attempt to attain her objective. After practice Rau usually does her homework in the car and is finally home at 10:30 p.m.
"The coaches are awesome and so is the style," said Rau. "A person might think that with the intensity and longevity of the workouts it would be stressful and it is but they make it fun. Not only with their attitudes but by varying the workouts and sometimes playing games."
Rau follows this schedule four days a week, with Wednesdays and weekends off. But Wednesdays are usually spent catching up on schoolwork and on many weekends Rau travels the country competing in meets.
"I've been to New York, Iowa, San Diego," said Rau. "They're pretty big meets against different competition. There's usually about 600 to 1,000 girls but it's split up into levels. You only compete one day. We leave on a Thursday or Friday and come back Monday night for out-of-state meets."
At the New York meet Rau won the all-around with a third-place finish on the floor, a first on the vault and a third on the bars.
In club gymnastics there are 10 levels. Rau was competing at level eight. She has since moved up to level nine and has still finished with good scores.
Last year as a member of the Brained Warriors, Rau advanced to the state tournament on the uneven parallel bars placing third and the balance beam. Although she loves competing against national competition, Rau does miss her teammates in Brainerd.
"Sometimes I still get to see them at school but I do miss the girls on the high school team," Rau said, "although the girls on my new team are great."
Rau has been a gymnast since she was in fourth grade, but since last year she said the difficulty of her routines has drastically improved.
"I've been working on double twists on floor and one and half full punch front," said Rau. "On bars I'm still doing my blind pulls like I did last year but in many different combinations.
"I've gotten quite a bit better on floor and my vault is more consistent and a bit more difficult with a pike Tsuk."
Rau will attend Winona State University, which is a Division II school. Rau is realistic about her goal and knows gymnastics can only take her so far. But her goal is placed before her and she's doing everything she can to accomplish it.
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