Lexi Parish will play with her sister Sam after all. And fellow Sobrato High senior Kaitlyn Lyle has also realized her dream of competing for a Division I program in gymnastics. The two have signed athletic scholarships—Parish with Sacramento State and Lyle with UC Davis—a culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice.
“This is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced because with gymnastics there aren’t that many opportunities to come by,” Lyle said. “The fact I was able to get this scholarship is very rewarding.”
It was fulfilling for Parish as well, especially given the fact she had originally committed to play for Santa Clara University with Sam two years ago. However, once the entire Santa Clara coaching staff departed over the summer, the Parish sisters knew they had to make a move, too. Sam immediately hooked on with Sacramento State—she’s currently in her freshman year at the school—but Lexi had to open up the recruitment process again entering her final year of high school.
Not exactly an enviable position, but one Lexi would ultimately thrive in. Parish played in some high-profile tournaments with her club team, Batbusters Gomes out of Stockton, and participated in one of Sacramento State’s camps in August. The Hornets’ softball program made an offer to Parish around Sept. 11 after watching her in additional tournaments.
“I was obviously excited, but there was a lot of relief at first,” she said. “I had somewhere to go again, and someone who wanted me to play for them. But the suspense was crazy.”
The sisters had wanted to play in college together all along, especially Lexi, who views Sam as one of her role models on and off the field.
“That was the one thing I was upset about (the coaching change at Santa Clara and de-committing), that now I wouldn’t be able to play with my sister in college,” Lexi said. “We have a good bond. She always tells me, ‘Oh, you need to stop following me,’ but we both talk about it that we miss each other even though we’re only a few hours away.”
Lexi said in talks with Sacramento State, the coaches liked her ability to hit and her overall demeanor. Parish brings plenty of energy every time she steps onto the field.
“I talk a lot and I’m really loud,” she said. “A lot of people notice me because of my cheering. … She was really impressed with my hitting because when I was at their camp, I think I was the only person that hit a home run over the fence when we were doing drills. I think she was surprised because there were a lot of girls there who you thought would hit a home run, and it was tiny and short me coming up roping them over the fence.”
Parish, who bats left and throws left, is projected to play in the outfield at Sacramento State. She plays that position at Sobrato and also pitches. A diligent and hard worker, Parish couldn’t be happier that she’ll be reunited with her sister on a softball team. Growing up, the two were inseparable, and they’ve grown close over the years, a special bond among siblings.
“I was really happy because obviously I wanted to be with my sister,” Lexi said. “She was joking with me saying, ‘Gosh, you have to follow me around everywhere.’ I can’t wait to be teammates again and being at Sacramento State.”
Lyle, meanwhile, will also be competing for a school in the Sacramento area in UC Davis. Since Lyle competes in a sport that doesn’t have a high school section championship in California or most of the country, she’s gone under the radar in terms of media attention outside of the Times’ profiles on her.
Lyle was on the fast track to earning a Division I scholarship; the only question was if a back injury during her junior year would prove detrimental in her recruiting process. It obviously did not. Lyle received offers from big name schools such as Stanford, Washington, Arizona, UCLA, Illinois and a handful more. Receiving so many offers from great schools with solid gymnastics programs made her decision tough.
“I had to balance what I wanted to do with my life to how I would fit in with the school and the gymnastics program,” she said. “You also have to balance the academics and where you would fit best, and pretty much all the things I wanted to see Davis offered and had way more pros than any other place I was looking at, so I knew it was the place for me. What I liked most about Davis was their sense of community because everyone is so welcoming and friendly. And for the gymnastics team, I love their coach (John Lavalee). He’s super funny and definitely knows what he’s doing.”
The Sobrato senior has compiled a 4.4 GPA, is also the ASB president and last summer took a service trip to Panama through Global Glimpse. The trip to another part of the world gave Lyle a totally different perspective on life.
“It’s probably the most favorite thing I’ve ever done besides gymnastics, mainly because I got to learn more about the world and kind of see other perspectives on life,” she said. “It made me grateful for everything I have.”
Lyle competes in everything, not just the gymnastics arena. She has yet to earn a B in high school, and she plans on keeping it that way. That sort of grit and determination is what propelled Lyle to overcome a back injury that forced her to miss significant time during her junior year club season. However, Lyle had already built up an impressive resume before that, and as such made a verbal commitment to UC Davis in the summer of 2018. Gymnastics is known for being brutally tough on the body, and injuries are common. Yet Lyle still found herself in a strange place.
“It was kind of weird because I had never been injured before,” she said. “But I kind of took it like I knew I was going to get better and I just had to stay positive throughout the whole process. Pitying myself wouldn’t do anything for me, so I stayed as positive as I could and wanted to be a role model for the team (Airborne Gymnastics).”
Both Lyle and Parish know what it took to earn scholarships to compete at the Division I level. Their schedules are jam-packed—Parish was in Florida playing in a national softball showcase tournament on Nov. 13, leaving Lyle as the lone athlete at Sobrato for the ceremonial signing event that day. And Lyle’s schedule is not for the faint of heart. She wakes up at 6:10 a.m. to get to a 7 a.m. zero period class—this after only 5 ½ to six hours of sleep. She gets to the Airborne Gymnastics Santa Clara facility to start practice around 3:30 p.m. and gets home around 9:30 to eat dinner and then shower. Then it’s time to start her homework around 10:15 before getting to bed around midnight or later. For Lyle and Parish, missing out on some social events or school dances to be in athletic competition—while tough—was both necessary and worthwhile, because in the end, all of the sacrifices they made helped them realize a dream. They’ll be competing at the highest level in college and getting their education paid for. At the signing ceremony, Lyle experienced a wide range of emotions.
“Honestly, it was super bittersweet because I was so grateful all of my friends and family came, and knowing all the hard work paid off was super amazing,” Lyle said. “But also reflecting on all I’ve been through and the fact I’m going to part ways with all these friends was kind of sad. But overall, it was such an amazing day and what I’ve worked so hard for.”