When Keira Lebovitz learned she had won the Level 9, Junior 4 Western Championships last month in Coralville, Iowa, she was shocked but also knew she had sacrificed her time and body to put herself in that position.
“I’ve been working hard the whole year, and especially with the pandemic and having everything shutdown for a while, this was a good comeback,” she said. “It showed what I was capable of.”
Of that, there is no doubt. Lebovtiz, a 13-year-old who recently completed the seventh-grade at Charter School of Morgan Hill, compiled an all-around score of 37.675 to win the title. She took second in the vault, third on the balance beam, sixth on the uneven bars, and 14th in the floor routine. Lebovitz felt she excelled on the bars, but her strongest overall event this season has been on the vault.
Because the athletes don’t find out their final scores until the entire competition is over, Lebovitz’s friends were one of the first people to find out she had won because they were following the results online.
“They told me they were at school and jumping up and down after they saw the scores,” Lebovitz said. “I was with the team and didn’t know my name was called saying I had won my division. I was just in shock. The team was really proud of me, and it was great because it was mostly about the team and wanting to do well together.”
Lebovitz’s breadth of work must have gotten the attention of USA Gymnastics because she was recently invited to their National Development Camp in Indianapolis from July 19-21. She will be joined by Level 9 and 10 champions throughout the country and receive instruction from various college coaches, said Dena Lebovitz, Keira’s mom.
Lebovitz, who trains out of Airborne Gymnastics in Santa Clara, was making her debut in the Western Championships and hopes her latest performance is an indicator of bigger things to come. Her next major goal is to reach Level 10—or the pre-elite level—in 2022. Reaching Level 9 is a significant achievement for a junior gymnast, as its difficulty requirements and expectations are accordingly more difficult than level 8.
As mentioned previously, Level 10 is considered a pre-elite level, a step away from the Elite level (beyond Level 10) where those athletes have legitimate Olympic aspirations.
“My long-term goal is to get a scholarship and compete in college,” she said.
To qualify for the Western Championships, Lebovitz had to meet the minimum all-around score in pre-qualifying competitions, send in a sample video of her routines and then advance out of state and regional competitions. The top seven out of her regional—which consisted of gymnasts from California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah—advanced to the Western Championships, which featured competitors from west of the Mississippi.
Should she reach Level 10, Lebovitz would then try to qualify for Nationals. Lebovitz started gymnastics when she was 5 because it perfectly suited her personality.
“From an early age, I liked taking a lot of risks, jumping all over the place and flipping on mats,” she said. “I have a lot of energy, and gymnastics is a good way for me to express it.”
Gymnasts at Lebovitz’s level possess tremendous strength and agility while also needing precision as evidenced by what they do on the balance beam. Before she begins a routine, Lebovitz takes a few deep breaths and visualizes her drills and passes. Like any competitor serious about improving, Lebovitz is constantly taking advice from coaches to make adjustments to their skill set and repertoire.
“I’d say I need to improve on my form on all my events,” she said. “I’ve improved it over the years, but there is still more to be done.”