‘A great storybook ending’

Published 10:52 pm Friday, May 23, 2014

Suffolk’s Taylor Harrison used the final competition of her impressive Junior Olympic gymnastics career to claim the ultimate prize that was missing.

Taylor Harrison of Suffolk competes on the balance beam during the 2014 Level 10 Junior Olympic National Championships in which she won the Senior D age group all-around competition. (John Cheng/Team Photo)

Taylor Harrison of Suffolk competes on the balance beam during the 2014 Level 10 Junior Olympic National Championships in which she won the Senior D age group all-around competition. (John Cheng/Team Photo)

She won the all-around for the 17- and 18-year-old age group at the 2014 Level 10 J.O. National Championships in Jackson, Miss., earlier this month with her all-time best score of 38.475.

She said winning meant “pretty much that all the hard work and hours had paid off.”

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Harrison, 18, has put in quite a few hours and seen consistent results for years. Competitive gymnastics are broken up into different levels based on ability. She reached the top J.O. level when she was in eighth grade and has qualified for the J.O. nationals for the last five years.

Previously, the closest she had come to winning the all-around in her respective age group was in 2010, when she placed third. She made the Junior Olympic National team then and this year, as well.

Her mother, Tami Harrison, said she knew Taylor had the ability to win the national all-around, but little mistakes held her back in previous years. When competing among an age group’s top 56 gymnasts nationwide, there is not much room for error.

“I think this year, I didn’t really have the mindset of winning,” Taylor Harrison said. “I was just trying to have fun since it was my last competition, and basically, I was just really relaxed, so I wasn’t as nervous.”

Her mother was a different story. Taylor Harrison performed well in the uneven bars event that her mom said would either make her or break her, but coming down the stretch, there were still two or three gymnasts who could have defeated her.

Tami Harrison said she decided, “I’m not watching. This is too close for comfort.”

Her daughter tied for second in the uneven bars with a 9.675 score, tied for second on the balance beam with a 9.525, got second outright in the vault with a 9.8 and tied for 10th in the floor routine with a 9.475. The sum of these scores equaled her all-around mark.

The last competitor in the floor routine needed to get a 9.6 to catch Harrison, but she did not, and Harrison’s victory was preserved.

“I think it was just a great storybook ending,” Tami Harrison said.

Taylor Harrison will be attending Ohio State University in the fall with a full athletic scholarship for gymnastics.

Thirteen-year-old Kourtney Chinnery of Suffolk also impressed at the national event, placing fifth in the all-around for her age group and earning placement on the Junior Olympic National team in age group Junior A.

Tami Harrison, owner of World Class Gymnastics gyms in Suffolk and Newport News, has high hopes for the young Chinnery.

“We want to eventually take her and try to get her into the Elite level, which is the Olympic level,” Harrison said.

Both Taylor Harrison and Chinnery will be invited to train with national staff at a clinic this summer.