By Valerie Shelton, Editor
You can’t have a conversation about Clovis Academy gymnasts without talking about Madison Isaak, one of the gym’s two level 10 gymnasts.
Isaak has been enthralled in the sport since the age of 3 and can’t even remember how she first got started at Clovis Academy—all she knows is that she has always loved being a gymnast. Hard work coupled with natural talent led Isaak up to level 7 when she was just 8 or 9 years old and despite a serious knee injury at age 10 and a fractured wrist just a season later, causing her to take a two-season hiatus from competitions, Isaak has still managed to rally to get to the highest Junior Olympics (J.O.) level.
The 15-year-old sophomore at Clovis North High School said she doesn’t know life without gymnastics.
“I haven’t tried any other sports aside from dance, but I just did that for fun and I was 5,” Isaak said. “I have always loved gymnastics so I stuck with it. The level of difficulty gets harder at each level. You have to keep the skills you had at the level before and actually build on them and get more advanced and gain more skills.”
Isaak’s favorite event changes day to day, but she currently favors the difficulty of bars.
“It depends on the day, but my favorite event is probably bars if I had to choose one because it is the most challenging and you get to work a lot of different skills, where with vault you only do one thing so it’s not as exciting,” Isaak said. “On bars you get to do release moves and you can flip when you release the bar so it’s just an exciting set of skills. My best event, though, is vault.”
Isaak’s beam and floor coach Kimberly Kor said Isaak is one of Clovis Academy’s top gymnasts.
“We have two level 10 gymnasts but she has made it to regionals and the first year it is hard at this level because there are a lot of girls at this level who have maybe dropped down from a higher level so for her it is great that she made it to regionals,” Kor said. “She works very hard and is very dedicated and she is fearless sometimes. She always wants to work on big skills and she has a library, if you will, of a lot of hard skills so as she stays at this level, she is going to pick the ones that are the most consistent for her that she can put together in a routine and hit and make that routine a strong routine but she has a lot of hard skills at every event and she’s training hard skills too that are above and beyond her.”
While Isaak competes on the club team at Clovis Academy, she has also been a part of the Clovis North Bronco’s gymnastic team. Last fall, Isaak earned the all-around gold medal at the high school championships. Competing with the Broncos, she said, differs from competing with Clovis Academy.
“For school, I get nervous but it is a different kind of nervous because it was me and one other girl on the Clovis North’s team this year that were the only club gymnasts at the time so you know that everyone is counting on you, but when your competing for the club gym it’s like everyone is really good and has all the skills so it is different,” Isaak said.
Kor said Isaak did one of her harder moves on floor at the high school championship meet and impressed a lot of fellow gymnasts. Many younger gymnasts, Kor said, look up to Isaak.
“The little ones look up to her constantly and want to be her,” Kor said. “We have a new little girl, Sydney, who is always talking about her and I don’t know if Madison knows this but one of the first weeks Sydney was here, Madison was doing her double flip on floor and the little girl said to her dad, ‘Do you see what Madi is doing? That is why I’m here, I want to learn that, I want to do that.’ It is really inspiring for them to see that.”
Kor has coached Isaak for the past seven years, since she was 9 and competing at level 7.
“She started at the highest level at the entry level, that is how long she has been at the highest level and that is what you want but you don’t always get that,” Kor said. “Sometimes kids come in later and it takes them a long time to get where she’s got. She is fairly young at her age to be at this level.”
Level 10, Kor said, is the second to highest level of difficulty. The highest level is elite. Kor said Isaak could advance to that level but many gymnasts choose not to do that because the time commitment is even more significant than at level 10. At level 10, a gymnast has to commit 20 hours a week to training—in addition to going to meets and competitions. At the elite level, you have to train six days a week for six to seven hours each day.
“It’s not that elite not a great thing to go for but you have to have that time management and you have to be able to not have anything else in your life and Madison takes super hard AP classes,” Kor said. “She has stayed up late a lot this season.”
Isaak has maintained straight A’s and this year took her first AP course, AP World History. Next year, she is registered to take three AP courses—AP Biology, AP Composition and AP U.S. History. She said it isn’t easy to juggle her school work and her gymnastics schedule, but she manages.
Kor said she is amazed at how gymnasts like Isaak manage their time.
“It’s a lot; It’s time management, discipline, structure and they learn early,” Kor said. “I’ve been here a long time and I’m the director of the gymnastics part of Clovis Academy, and I’ve seen these girls and the majority, I would say 99 percent, are straight A and honor students. It is amazing that they do that on top of all their gymnastics.”
Isaak has also served as a model for Snowflake Designs and enjoys art, in particularly creating handmade cards for her friends’ birthdays. Isaak hasn’t decided on a college yet, but hopes to continue her gymnastics career at the college level. She also plans to pursue a career as a physical therapist.