September 19, 2018 | ° F

Gymnastics a family affair for California native

Photo by Andrew Howard |

Junior Kiah Banfield averages 9.538 on the vault and 9.579 in the floor exercise for the Rutgers gymnastics team.

When a spectator arrives at a Rutgers gymnastics meet, he or she sees a crowd filled with families. At its core, gymnastics is truly a family sport.

For junior Kiah Banfield, that holds true.

As a child, Banfield started gymnastics because she had to do everything her sister did. Beyond her naturally energetic nature that caused her to fly all over the jungle gym in elementary school, Banfield's desire to pursue gymnastics began to follow in her older sister's footsteps.

"I have a sister who is four years older than I am and she was into gymnastics," Banfield said. "I just wanted to do everything she did."

Banfield's ceaseless energy drew her to both gymnastics and soccer at a young age. When the decision came between the two sports, Banfield chose gymnastics, recognizing that it was her true passion.

"The challenge of learning new skills is really rewarding," Banfield said. "Obviously you learn skills in soccer, but it just wasn't the same."

When deciding on college, the Californian recognized that the level of competition on the West Coast might be too lofty and set her sights on a well-rounded environment.

"Coming from California a lot of the west coast schools are really competitive," Banfield said. "I looked for a school that has good academics as well as gymnastics because I knew gymnastics isn't going to lead to a career."

When she began her career, Banfield was unsure of how she would perform at a higher level. Her expectations for herself were hardly high, but not only has she surpassed her expectations, she looks to continue to get better.

"I didn't know what to expect. I really didn't think I'd be ready for college gymnastics," Banfield said. "I'm better than I thought I'd be, but now that I'm here I want to just keep getting better."

Banfield took her skills to the next level this season, proving to be a clutch performer in vault and floor exercises. Her season average of 9.538 in vault and 9.579 in floor exercises are both marks that draw the praise of head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton.

"Kiah has been great this year," Chollet-Norton said. "She has been consistently outstanding on vault and floor."

Unlike last year when the team suffered from an inordinate amount of injuries, there is now an opportunity for the team to perform well and potentially go to nationals. Banfield recognizes that last season was unlucky but can be a learning experience.

"I feel like the injuries we had last year were freak accidents," Banfield said. "This year we can get those high scores we need. Nationals are in Texas this year and it would be great to have a meet down there."

While at the moment her focus is firmly on gymnastics, Banfield recognizes that after college, her gymnastics career will be over. However, her endless energy will not allow her to turn to a sedentary lifestyle.

"After school, I'm going to pick up another sport," Banfield said. "Maybe tennis or beach volleyball. I might even do running because my dad runs marathons."

Even in her future choices for athletic endeavors, Banfield continues to think of family.

Josh Glatt

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