Three-time state qualifier Whitson leads Parker’s healthy aspirations

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Thursday, January 20, 2011
— Qualifying for the state has never been a problem for Erika Whitson.

The Janesville Parker High School senior has competed at the WIAA state gymnastics meet the last three years.

Unfortunately for Whitson, competing at full-strength is another matter. She has been ill during the state meet all three years.

With the state’s top score on balance beam this season (9.7), a top-five ranking on floor exercise (9.65), and her team second-rated in the state, Whitson should get another opportunity to showcase her talents at state. And she’s certainly hoping the flu bug won’t follow her.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” Whitson said of her bad luck. “But I would like the chance to go up to state and compete when I’m not sick.

“But I have to get there first.”

If Whitson continues to perform at such a high level, getting there shouldn’t be a problem. She owns most of the Parker school records and is the only Viking gymnast to compete at state in the all-around—that coming in 2009. Whitson is the school record-holder on uneven bars (9.05), balance beam (9.7), floor exercise (9.65) and the all-around (36.325).

A four-year varsity performer in gymnastics, Whitson also competes in volleyball and track and field. She has been in gymnastics since she was three years old, starting with the Janesville YMCA program and currently working with the city’s CSA program.

Whitson’s mother, Gaylynn, is one of the outstanding coaches at CSA.

Whitson’s favorite event is floor exercise. The apparatus requires gymnasts to perform a number of tumbling moves on a spring floor. Floor exercise routines last up to 90 seconds, and are choreographed in advance, combining acrobatic and dance elements. This event, above all others, allows the gymnast to express her personality through her dance and musical style.

“It comes down to being consistent in the routine and staying focused,” Whitson said. “You’re always trying to add moves that increase the degree of difficulty, but you also have to maintain consistency.”

For now, Whitson is focused on tonight’s Big Eight Conference dual meet at Janesville Craig. Both teams are 4-0 in the conference and both are ranked in the top five in the state based on scores. Craig features defending state champions Becky Schneider on all-around and Sara Ennocenti on vault, while the Vikings have a talented mix of upperclassmen and freshmen.

“It’s a big deal,” Whitson said of competing against Parker’s crosstown rival. “We will probably be watching a little closer as to how they’re (Craig) doing as far as their routines and scores.

“Everybody will be a little bit nervous at first, but once you get going, you tend to focus on what you have to do.”

Whitson knows exactly what she has to do for the rest of the season. Keep setting records. Qualify for state, and stay healthy once she gets there.

Person I admire most: My mom (Gaylynn).
Best sports memory: Club gymnastics.
TV show I never miss: "One Tree Hill."
Favorite food: Lasagna.
Favorite pastime: Hanging out with friends.
Favorite movie: "Anchorman."
In 10 years, I’ll be: A physical therapist.
Best invention in the last 100 years: Cell phone.
An unusual thing the average person wouldn’t know about me: I read a lot.
If I could have one super power, it would be: Invisible.
If I could play any other sport, it would be: Hockey.
If I could have dinner with one famous person, it would be: Ryan Reynolds.
CD currently getting the most play: Taylor Swift.

Last updated: 4:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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