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National competition next step in athlete’s journey

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Morgan Lane is hoping for an early birthday present.

The Columbus North senior, who turns 18 a week from today, will compete in the Junior Olympic National Championships for gymnastics Saturday in Jackson, Mississippi. She’s looking for top-10 finishes in individual events and the all-around competition, which would put her on the medals stand.

“I think she has an excellent chance,” said Gary Stam, Lane’s coach at Victory Gymnastics Academy. “If she puts together 4-for-4 (events) like she did at state, she’ll be in the top three in the all-around.”

Lane is making her second consecutive trip to the Junior Olympic nationals. Last year, she finished 14th on the bars, and a fall on the floor kept her from a top-10 all-around finish. She did help the Region 5 squad to a runner-up team finish.

This year, Lane won the state all-around title with a 38.5. A fall on the bars in the regional meet originally left her a half-point short of making the Region 5 team again, but she found out Wednesday that one of the girls who made that squad pulled out of the nationals, opening the door for Lane to compete on the team.

“The beginning of the season was slow, and as we’ve been progressing on toward the end of the year she’s getting to her peaking point,” Stam said. “I was afraid at state she was going to peak too soon, but she’s hung in there well. I’m hoping that she’s actually going to peak at nationals.”

“I’ve improved my routines a lot,” Lane said. “I got a lot of new skills this year, which has helped me out a bunch. This is probably the best that I’ve ever done.”

Stam said Lane has become more of an all-around gymnast in the past couple of years.

“Beam is her best event in her history, but she’s actually brought up all her other events, so her other events are equally as good,” Stam said. “Her bars have improved probably the most over all the years that I’ve gotten the chance to work with her. She has every major release move that she needs in it. She does great with it.”

At the beginning of last club season, Lane scored only a 7.8 on the bars. This year, she’s been as high as 9.6 on that event.

“Some days, you have bad days on one event and another event is really good,” Lane said. “Beam has always been my strong event, but I’ve had a couple more events that have gotten strong this year because I’ve gotten better skills on them.”

Two years ago, Lane made it to National Invitational Tournament and finished second on the beam. She considers the beam and floor her favorite events.

“On floor, you can show your personality a lot, and it’s a power event, so it’s really fun to compete in,” Lane said.

Taylen Lane (no relation to Morgan) and Ragan Gaskill, who are Level 6 gymnasts at VGA, said Morgan Lane is helpful to them as leader of the club team.

“She tells us if our legs are bent or our toes aren’t pointed, stuff like that,” Taylen Lane said.

“If we get new skills, she cheers us on,” Gaskill said. “She helps us get new skills.”

Stam points to Morgan Lane’s dedication and her heart as the keys to her success.

“She is very dedicated and determined,” Stam said. “We make fun of her a little bit because she has a little bit of OCD, and that makes it perfect for a gymnast. She works and works and makes everything that she throws perfect.

“She sacrificed all the other things that she has going on in high school life for this time and moment,” he said. “She had given up high school gymnastics and everything else so she can do this one thing. She’s doing awesome, and because of that, she’s going to be able to go on to college and do college gymnastics now.”

North finished third in this year’s high school gymnastics state finals and might have won had Morgan Lane competed for the Bull Dogs. But in the gymnastics world, colleges look at club competitors more than high school gymnasts.

“I never really wanted to do high school gymnastics because I’ve been more focused on college, and club is a lot more competitive,” Morgan Lane said. “But I do miss my teammates because a lot of my teammates left club gymnastics to go to high school gymnastics, so that was hard. I like to watch them because I grew up with them.”

Although she hasn’t received an athletic scholarship, Morgan Lane has accepted an offer to walk on at North Carolina next year. She will receive academic aid.

“Unfortunately, we got into the college process a lot later than you need to for schools to look into you,” she said. “We didn’t know how the recruiting process would work, so we started late and a bunch of the schools had already recruited other kids. So it was a little bit tough, but I had a couple schools with interest.”

Morgan Lane said she was offered a scholarship by Eastern Michigan, but by that time, had pretty much already made the decision to go to UNC. She is thinking of majoring in biology or nutrition and wants to go to med school.

“I met the coaches, and they’re really awesome,” Morgan Lane said. “It’s a good school, which is the most important thing. I met the girls, and they’re nice. I’m looking forward to have a team to compete with because college gymnastics is more of a team environment instead of individual.

“I’m excited because it’s more of a routine atmosphere and something different,” she said. “I’m going to miss it here, but I’m looking forward to it.”

So is her mother, Cindy Mason. Morgan Lane, whose older sisters Chelsea and Tessa were athletes at North and in college, started gymnastics classes at age 2 and began competing at age 6.

“It’s very exciting for us for her to be able to make nationals and to win state,” Mason said. “It will be much different next year, but we’re so excited. She’s been doing this since she was very little, and she’s worked hard all these years. We’re looking forward to seeing her compete at UNC.”

As her club career comes to a close, Morgan Lane wants to go out with a bang on Saturday.

“I’m looking to do my best because that’s what’s most important,” she said. “But it would be nice to place. Hopefully, I can get up on the podium in a couple of things.”

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