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Ryle Gymnast Commits to Air Force

Ryle senior and gymnastics standout Heidi Sand officially committed to attend the United States Air Force Academy Preparatory School during a ceremony at Top Flight Gymnastics in Crescent Springs on Friday afternoon. Sand has reached Level 10 in competitive gymnastics—the highest level attainable for junior gymnastics—and has demonstrated herself to be a natural to the sport since she was 3.

Sand was recruited by the Air Force during her junior year at a competition in Tennessee called Flip Fest and took two trips to the Academy in Colorado Springs before making her decision to attend. Her success in the sport has made her a role model to the younger gymnasts who train at Top Flight.

“There are a lot of expectations, but it's nice to have the girls look up to me,” she said.

The Air Force Academy prioritizes excellence in the classroom in addition to the gym, and Sand has worked extremely hard to meet those requirements. During her time at Ryle High School, she maintained a 4.0 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. She is able to manage her time effectively by practicing 20 hours a week at the gym while also focusing on her studies.

Heidi's coach Amanda Reed has seen her potential the whole time while instructing her.

“It's been a really long process,” Reed said. “Heidi has been in gymnastics for 15 years and increasing her number of hours as she went to higher and higher levels. When I started coaching here, we had about 30 girls on the team and the highest of which was Level 7. We really weren't seeing athletes get to Level 10 and beyond, so it's really been a goal of mine to help the program continue to grow and get athletes to college scholarships and she is a bit of a trailblazer in that way for our program.”

Reed has always been impressed with Sand's natural strength and coordination and saw her develop an aesthetic line of movement that coaches like to see in gymnastics.

“She's just naturally beautiful to watch, from her fingers down to her toe points and she catches on to things pretty quickly,” Reed said. “I've said from the time she was little that she makes us coaches look good. It's not anything that we do, but she learns and picks up on things so quickly so it's been fun to teach her new skills.”

During the ceremony, many teammates, family, and friends came to Top Flight to show their support in what became a heartfelt and emotional event. Sand thanked numerous supporters, including her coaches and parents and by the end, there were few dry eyes in the building.

Sand will begin her college career at the Air Force Academy at the beginning of the 2016 academic year.

Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor