There are probably not a lot of 16-year-olds walking around who can say that they have already accomplished a dream, but you can count Macomb L’Anse Creuse North junior Paige Zaziski as one of them.
On May 10-11, Zaziski is scheduled to compete in the Women’s Junior Olympics Level 10 Championships, set to take place in Minneapolis, Minn., for the second time. She last competed when she was in eighth grade, and she earned the opportunity again after finishing in first place at both a regional and state championship earlier this year.
Zaziski began training at Hunt’s Gymnastics Academy and Sports Zone, located in Harrison Township, when she was 7 under coach Shannon Hunt, who remains her coach.
“I look back at it and, wow,” Zaziski said. “I’ve had a long road. It’s been (an) amazing life for me. I’m thankful and grateful for everything.”
The kind of results she has achieved doesn’t exactly happen by accident, as evidenced by the 21 hours per week she spends training. According to Zaziski, she goes right from school to the gym four days a week, and also takes time to train on Saturdays.
Zaziski credits her parents (Mike and Debbie Zaziski), Hunt, and her teammates for the help they have given her along the way.
The respect Zaziski has for her coach goes both ways, as Hunt said she is also thankful for the opportunity she has had to coach her. Aside from seeing talent from Zaziski the day they met, Hunt could also tell early that she was training someone who was willing to put forth the kind of effort that it takes to be a champion.
“She has a lot of natural ability,” Hunt said. “But her work ethic, even at 7, was just impeccable. At 7, you didn’t have to tell her twice. If you asked her to try something, she was willing to try it. If you asked her to do something, she would do it until it was right. At 7 years old, it takes a special character to train as much as she did and work as much as she does.”
Aside from giving her the opportunity to compete at a national level, gymnastics has also helped Zaziski earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of Arkansas, where she will begin in the summer of 2014.
While Zaziski’s mother is pleased that her daughter’s skills have helped land her a college scholarship, she’s also happy with some of the other benefits she believes have come as a result of Zaziski’s gymnastics career.
“She’s gotten so many leadership skills in the gym,” she said. “They have a Big Sister-Little Sister program. She always takes two of the younger kids and basically mentors them. They do fundraising and community service projects as a team to help team bonding and prepare them for life after high school.
“She’s also become a really good time manager. (Because) she’s in the gym 21 hours a week, she prioritizes everything so that she can get everything done she needs to get done.”
Zaziski is still undecided as to what she will major in at Arkansas, although she is considering something business-related. While she does plan to stop competing after she completes college, Zaziski is not ruling out the possibility of being a gymnastics coach or opening a gym.
Regardless of what the future may hold, Zaziski believes that her success as a gymnast has helped teach her something that could prove to have a lasting impact on her life, in whatever it is she decides to do.
“It helps me realize anything is possible,” she said. “If I put my mind to it, I can accomplish it.”
Zaziski will be joined at the Junior Olympics by St. Clair High sophomore Megan Schweihofer, also of Hunt’s Gymnastics Academy, who had a seventh-place finish at the state meet and a third-place finish at a Level 10, Region 5 championship.
Hunt called Schweihofer a “late starter” in gymnastic terms, coming in at the age of 9, but one who has made the most of her time, even verbally committing to the University of Nebraska only as a sophomore.
“(She) just steadily worked and steadily stayed moving forward,” Hunt said. “You didn’t know what you were (going to) get, and because of her work ethic and her dedication, she just sailed right up there.”