Artistic gymnast Amanda Gruber of Riverside showed great determination just to reach her first USA Gymnastics Level 9 Eastern National Championships April 30 in Virginia Beach, Va.

She took advantage of the opportunity to accomplish her lofty goals.

“It was the best all-around I ever had,” Gruber said. “Overall, I’m happy I hit all four routines and excited to do that at a meet of that magnitude and put it all together.”

Gruber used her personal-best 37.45 in all-around to place fourth of 29 entries in the Senior 1 division for qualifiers born between March 3 and June 24, 2001. Gruber earned three more medals for top-eight event finishes and a certificate for helping her Region 5 team take first. All four of Gruber’s event scores counted for Region 5, which represents gymnasts from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.

A freshman at Riverside-Brookfield, Gruber has trained at Flying High Gymnastics in Countryside since she was 4. Her ultimate goal is to compete collegiately.

“Obviously what I accomplished at the meet (I’ll remember), but honestly just the whole experience from beginning to end was more than just the competing itself,” Gruber said. “We were there six days. It was not just your typical (meet) experience. The coaches were so supportive and pushed me and I had lots of fun.”

For Level 9 nationals, the U.S. is divided into Eastern and Western sections. Gruber finished fourth on balance beam (9.45), her favorite event, tied for sixth on the uneven parallel bars (9.3) and was eighth on vault (9.475) and ninth on floor exercise (9.225), .25 from eighth.

She competed first on vault. Landing her Yurchenko layout, which she has upgraded from a pike last season, set the tone for a phenomenal meet.

“The best vault of my season. I had a solid bar routine and although beam and floor are my best events, I did have some small wobbles and deductions,” Gruber said. “(Beam) just takes an immense amount of focus, determination and confidence and I thrive on that challenge. I just love how beam looks.”

To reach Easterns, Gruber needed a top-seven, all-around finish at her Region 5 Meet April 8 in Bourbonnais. In 2015, she was 15th at Level 9 regionals (36.30), .675 form seventh.

Gruber began on beam but she fell, resulting in an 8.675. Starting with a second-place, season-high 9.525 on floor, she bounced back with three solid routines and finished fifth (36.90).

“I took some time by myself (after beam) to mentally focus and get prepared. I really wanted to make nationals and the whole (Flying High) team was there cheering me on,” Gruber said. “This season I worked really hard and was upgrading all of my routines to make it to nationals.”

Flying High teammates wrote Gruber motivational notes for Easterns and contacted her through FaceTime the morning of competition. Gruber also gained strength from the near-instant camaraderie of her Region V teammates also coaches.

“I knew it was very team oriented, but it was really one of the highlights to compete with the region and how everyone came together. When you got off an event, the whole team was up with high fives and you really felt support,” Gruber said.

“At Level 9, it was just really important for me to gain national experience and learn how to deal with the pressure in such a big meet. Now it only gets harder as I move to Level 10.”