Morgan Leasure competing at national championships with Aspen Gymnastics
After falling on her final routine at regionals, Morgan Leasure thought her season was over. Instead, the Aspen Gymnastics athlete finds herself at the 2018 Women’s Junior Olympic National Championships this weekend in Cincinnati.
“I went to bars, which I’ve been having a little bit of trouble with because of my injury, and I didn’t make one of my skills and ended up falling,” Leasure said. “I had an OK meet but didn’t do as well as I had wanted to and I initially thought I didn’t qualify through to nationals, so when they called my name up and I had tied for fifth I was really surprised.”
Leasure, who is a junior at Aspen High School, competes Saturday in the season’s finale. Competing at Level 10, which is the highest youth level in the sport, Leasure is at nationals for the first time. According to John Bakken, Leasure’s coach who has long run Aspen Gymnastics, Leasure is the first Aspen gymnast to have ever competed at this level.
This is Leasure’s third season at Level 10, and it was her first time in three tries making it through the regional competition.
“Both years at regionals, she just really didn’t do her best. But this year, she’s had an injury and that’s kind of why it’s been a tough year,” Bakken said. “At the state meet, she barely made it through to the regional. But I just knew it wasn’t a good meet for her.”
Since October, Leasure has dealt with inflammation in her hip. She hasn’t missed any time in the gym, but has had to fight through the pain on a regular basis. The Region 3 meet was held April 17 at Denver University, with Leasure tying for fifth in the all-around. The top seven from each of the eight regions across the country qualify for nationals.
“It’s all the best gymnasts in the United States, so I’m going to be competing against some of the girls you always hear about,” Leasure said. “So that’s going to be really exciting. I’m not looking to win or to even excel, I’m just looking to do the best meet I’ve had this year.”
Even more than getting to compete for a national championship, this weekend’s meet is a chance for gymnasts to impress the college scouts. Most of the elite athletes her age already have committed to college programs, but for someone like Leasure who comes from a smaller town and hasn’t been on the big stage yet, she’s a bit of an unknown to the large programs.
The only other Level 10 gymnast out of Aspen right now is fellow AHS junior Donovan Bronstein, who finished 19th in all-around at the regional meet this year.
“Donovan plans to go to college, and he wants to do club gymnastics, but he doesn’t want to do any more than that,” Bakken said. “But Morgan I think really wants to compete in a competitive program. She can definitely do it. Morgan is a little bit on the outside. She hasn’t been to nationals yet. But I think it will be really good for her. There will definitely be coaches who take notice.”
Prior to Leasure, the last time Aspen Gymnastics had a Level 10 athlete was Rose Kiernan, a 2000 AHS graduate who went on to compete for DU.
The success of both Leasure and Bronstein is certainly rubbing off on some of the younger competitive athletes. Two others, Katie Sheridan and Story Rondeau, are trying to follow in Leasure’s footsteps. The younger girls competed at the Level 7 Region 3 championships in Kansas City on April 28, with Sheridan recording two top-10 finishes in the 13-year-old age group, plus a 12th-place finish in the all-around. Competing in the 12-year-old age group, Rondeau was 11th on the vault.
A fifth, Mino Khan-Farooqi, joined the optional level team this season as a Level 6 athlete. She just missed qualifying for the Level 6 state meet.
“We’ve had a lot of upper-level athletes, and Morgan has raised the bar to the new level,” Bakken said. “It’s really somebody for all these kids to look up to.”
David Stapleton is the development officer for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club. A product of the club, AVSC sat down with Stapleton for a Q&A session in this week’s Clubhouse Chronicles.