Curiosity turned into passion. Passion turned into determination. Determination turned into standing at the top of the podium for Grapevine senior gymnast Demi Pursley.
Pursley had been bouncing around gyms, learning the disciplines of her physically demanding sport. On days when it didn’t feel right or she didn’t feel good, she kept going.
But then came the payoff. On April 29 at the state high school gymnastics meet at Odessa Permian, Pursley came away with a state championship in the vault. She saved the best for last.
“It was a pretty emotional time for me,” Pursley said. “This is one of the last meets that I’m going to do. I really couldn’t think about that. I just had to hit my routine. It was a great feeling.”
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I was about four when I went to a birthday party at a gym and just ran around and loved it. I had the best time of my life.
- Grapevine champion gymnast Demi Pursley
Pursley, 18, finished the compulsory round in second place with a 9.925. All competitors had to do the same vault and meet certain requirements. So she was in a good place. On the deciding day, it was the optional round. Gymnasts were either going to rise or fall with their own designed routine.
It’s a bit daunting when 13 years of training comes down to a handful of seconds. The charge to the vault is followed by the springing jump on the platform to greet the vault followed by the move and then sticking the landing.
The speed of the charge sets the tone to how that routine is going to unfold. Slow just a bit and it won’t look good. Go too fast and it could be a disaster.
But that’s why thousands of repetitions matter. All sports are about muscle memory. Any athlete can self-diagnose when something is off or on based on how they go through it.
Pursley stuck to what she had been doing for the last six years. Her signature move consisted of a round up on her hands, a half twist, missing her feet and then finishing with a back flip. She turned in a 9.775, which was the best score of the day. She topped Kyleigh Prater of Hurst L.D. Bell, which is the most successful program in Texas.
Grapevine’s program enjoyed the spotlight considering that it only features four gymnasts. Most other teams have rosters three or four times that size.
“I’m just a powerful gymnast,” Pursley said. “A lot of it comes easy. Our coaches made us wear weights on our ankles when we were training so when we did these, we would feel lighter. I was about four when I went to a birthday party at a gym and just ran around and loved it. I had the best time of my life.”
The drama between her attempt and the wait to find out if she had won lasted a little more than an hour. While she felt confident, the unknown still took hold. After just missing in 2016, Pursley doesn’t have to wonder what could have been anymore.
“It’s a great feeling, a little relief that I won this my senior year,” she said.
The gold medal also represents closure. Pursley will participate at a national event May 17-20 in Fort Myers, Florida. Then she walks away from the sport from a competitive standpoint for good.
Pursley is ready to move on to college. She plans to attend the University of Arkansas.
“Physically, it takes a lot out of you,” she said. “Every day my body is sore. But I’ve loved doing every bit of it. All of it.”