By Marty Farmer
When Amanda Gruber was 3 years old, her mom, DeAnn, put her in ballet class. That activity wasn't enough, however, for Amanda. Soon after, she joined the Flying High Sports and Rec Center in Countryside.
A gymnast was born.
"Flying High is such a family environment," Gruber said. "I have some of the best coaches around and some of my best friends are my teammates. Everybody there cares about me more as a person than a gymnast."
Fourteen years later, Gruber still trains at Flying High. She is now a prolific gymnast, posting high scores at national events. Competing at Level 10 for a second year, Gruber's breakout meet occurred at the Chicago Style at Navy Pier.
Known as the largest gymnastics meet in the world, Gruber took first place in the all-around (37.35) and beam (9.6), second on bars (9.125), third on floor (9.25) and fourth on vault (9.375).
At the Circle of Stars meet in Indianapolis, Gruber won a scholarship, competing against 1,000 gymnasts at that event.
"Circle of Stars was extra special," Gruber said. "I was just getting back into the groove and coming off the summer schedule. What I honestly took away from that meet was winning a scholarship. I was super excited because that's a big deal."
Whether it's a scholarship or awards, the results are coming for Gruber courtesy of her talent, passion and determination.
"I have been coaching Amanda since her start in competitive gymnastics," said Kacey Childs, a coach at Flying High. "She has always been one to shoot for the stars and she hasn't stopped yet. She has definitely earned every accomplishment because she puts in the extra work day in and day out. She is everything you want out of an athlete."
Madylin Farago, who also trains at Flying High, offered similar praise for Gruber.
"Amanda is not only my teammate, she is my best friend," Farago said. "With all the time I spend with her in and out of the gym, I've gotten to learn so much about her. She's not only an amazing gymnast but also as a genuine, kind- hearted person. She is always there when you need advice or an extra push in the gym."
At the USA Gymnastics Illinois State Meet, Gruber finished eighth to qualify for regionals, and then ninth at regionals to qualify for National Junior Olympics.
At the Nationals, she posted her highest bar set (9.35) and vault (9.5). On vault, she upgraded her vault to a Yurchenko Full. Named after Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko, the gymnast does a round-off onto the springboard and then a back handspring onto the horse or vaulting table. The gymnast then performs a salto, which may range in difficulty from a simple single tuck to a triple twist layout.
"I like the intensity of club gymnastics which is really where I thrive," Gruber said. "Facing better competition keeps me focused. It also helps me see the kind of gymnasts I will be competing against in college gymnastics."
Entering her senior year at Riverside-Brookfield High School, Gruber is focused on the present as well as upcoming meets.
"Summer is normally spent a lot on conditioning and upgrades," Gruber said. "My upgrades include a new dismount on bars and also upgrading my tumbling path. It's about little details which should help scoring and maintaining consistency."
Gruber is attracting recruiting interest from several NCAA Division I gymnastics programs. Aside from her prowess as a gymnast, Gruber is an outstanding student.
At RBHS, she is a member of the National Honors Society and will be the senior class president in the fall after three years as class treasurer.
"I have worked really hard to maintain a balanced life between school, a social life and gymnastics," Gruber said. "In college, I'd like to study biomedical engineering or physical therapy or both."
Gruber will continue to put in the hard work at Flying High with plenty of training. In December, she will travel to the Bahamas to compete in the 2018 Atlantis Crown Invitational.
"I think my favorite part about Amanda is that she's not scared to travel the path less taken," Childs said. "She knows that anything is attainable if you put in the work. It is fun to coach an athlete like Amanda because she is up for a continuous challenge."