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Kelley finishes fourth in nation at gymnastics event

While Dearing's new mayor, Sean Kelley, has been working to put his town on the map, his daughter is accomplishing the feat her own way.


Abigayle Kelley

Six-year-old Abigayle Kelley placed fourth all-around in the Amateur Athletic Union National Gymnastics Competition for her age category. The event was held in Rochester, Minn., the last week of June.

According to the AAU website, Abigayle scored 9.650 on the vault, 9.250 on the uneven bars, and 8.8 on the balance beam and floor routines to earn a 36.5 all-around score. This was only one-tenth of a point behind the third place winner from California and 1.625 points behind the first place winner, who was also from Georgia.

"She got medals in the others, but we are proudest of her bars," her mother, Paige, said.

The uneven bars are Abigayle's favorite event, according to her mother, and "she got nines all year long on it."

Abigayle trains about eight hours every week at Gymnastics Gold in Martinez, under the tutelage of Denise Jessen and Allison Schofield. She is the only gymnast from McDuffie County at the gym. This summer, Abigayle also went to a gymnastics camp, where she trained under Olympic gold-medalist Carly Patterson.

This was Abigayle's second year to compete in the national competitions. Her mother said she placed 15th last year.

"She's having a lot of fun doing it, she's not even into that competitive mode yet. She just says é─˛whatever' and she goes out and does it," Mrs. Kelley said.

Abigayle began walking when she was only eight months old, and her mother said they were looking for a way to "harness all that energy and control it." When she was one, they took her to the Little Gym in Augusta for toddler gymnastics. When it became evident that Abigayle excelled above others her age, the Kelley's took her to Gymnastics Gold. After two months, Abigayle was asked to join the Gymnastics Gold competitive team.

Mrs. Kelley said Abigayle must compete in 10 meets every year, and score high enough to be eligible for state competition. Her placement at the state level determines her eligibility for national competition.

When she grows up, Abigayle wants to be a "Gym Dawg," which is a member of the University of Georgia's Gymnastics team. Mrs. Kelley said this is a worthy goal, because UGA is currently the National Collegic Athletic Association champion, and "they are one of the most awesome gymnastic teams that ever hit the ground running."

For Abigayle, the national meet was just "whatever." She was much more impressed with her day spent at the Mall of America while in Minnesota.

"She talks very little about the meet, but she talks a whole lot about that mall. We spent the whole day there, and she just had a blast," her mother said.

Web posted on Thursday, July 20, 2006

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