INDIANAPOLIS – The 47th largest state in land mass in the United States might have cornered the market on the future of women’s gymnastics.
When the junior division, gymnasts between the ages of 11–15, took the floor at Indianapolis’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the first day of their competition at the 2015 P&G U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Thursday afternoon, five of the 28 competitors hailed from the Garden State. The only other state to equal that amount? The traditional gymnastics powerhouse that is the nation’s second largest state — Texas.
And when the first day of competition ended? Three of those five Jersey girls had spots in the top ten, with two — Jazmyn Foburg and Lauren Hernandez, who train at Morganville, N.J.’s Monmouth Gymnastics — in first and second.
Foburg is the reigning national champion in junior women, and her consistency won the day. Although she stepped out of bounds on her final tumbling pass on floor exercise to open the afternoon, she put that behind her quickly. On her next event, she scored her first career 15.000 — a giant score for a senior gymnast in this decade’s Code of Points, let alone a junior one — on vault with a high-flying Yurchenko double twist.
“It was amazing,” said Foburg. “I’ve always wanted (a 15), and I finally got it. And it’s awesome because I got it at P&Gs.”
Foburg’s uneven bars routine finished with a flourish, a full-twisting double tuck dismount, and she slid up to first place. On her last rotation, she calmly moved through a balance beam routine with fewer bobbles than most of her competitors, earning her a 14.35 and putting her in a good spot heading into Saturday afternoon’s finals.
Clad in a yellow, white and hot pink leotard, the spunky Hernandez held her own in her first national championships back after wrist and knee injuries kept her sidelined for most of 2014. With choreography details so sharp that you could easily see them if you were hanging from the Indiana Pacers’ Divisional Championship banners in the rafters, she started the afternoon off with a huge ovation and score (14.35) on floor exercise. Vault shook her a bit, but she recovered on uneven bars to move from third place to second.
Nerves struck Hernandez as she waited for her last event, balance beam. To help, she turned to advice she learned online.
“Sometimes I blow on my thumbs. Somewhere I read that your thumb has a pulse, so if I blow on my thumb it helps,” said Hernandez. “Or I talk to my coach about shoes, so I don’t overthink.”
It worked. She had a balance check here and there, but she held her own to remain in second just behind her teammate, something Foburg was pleased about.
“I’m glad we’re together,” said Foburg. “I am so happy that I get to compete with her.”
Next year, the New Jersey contingent will be down two gymnasts in the junior ranks. Both now 15 years old, Hernandez and Foburg will move up to the senior division for 2016, making them age-eligible to make runs for the team headed to the Olympics in Rio. But for this weekend, the focus is on one of them winning a national title at the end of Saturday’s finals, proving that New Jersey is as tough in gymnastics as it is in its stereotype.
“I’m just so happy to be here, especially with her,” said Hernandez. “She pushes me to be the best and she always has my back.”