Junior Olympics

Brandon Nguyen, Eric Shebert, Jacob Martin, Zachary Martin, Ryan Markowitz, Preston Ngai and Ryan Jacobsen will all be moving on to the Junior Olympics in May.

Along with his classmates at Elevate Gymnastics Academy, Ryan Jacobsen trains for six days a week.

For the past year, the 12-year-old and six classmates trained with their coaches Ron and Tanner, and this month it paid off.

The seven student-athletes, who head to practice after school, all qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championships, which will take place May 9-13 in Oklahoma City.

“When I qualified for Junior Olympics, I felt really happy and I felt really accomplished about myself. I was freaking out. It was super exciting,” Jacobsen said at the start of practice at Elevate Gymnastics in Laguna West on April 16.

Jacobsen, Preston Ngai, Ryan Markowitz, Zachary Martin, Jacob Martin, Eric Shebert and Brandon Nguyen all competed at the Region I Men’s Gymnastics Championship over the April 7-8 weekend, which qualified the gymnasts for the Junior Olympics, most of them for which will be their first time.

“ I had one kid qualify last year. I was really happy for them because I know it’s been a big goal of theirs,” said coach Tanner Dowell, who has coached the younger students for the past 2-3 years, according to his estimation.

“I was pretty excited. I’ve always wanted to go to Nationals and just compete,” Ngai said.

Ngai, who is 11, has been competing for five years and has aspirations to win a national title like his brother, who is 19, and to someday go to the Olympics.

“These are the highest level boys we have here. They’re one step below our Olympic team so we have level 8, 9, 10, who have all qualified to Nationals, of course 10 being the highest,” said Elevate Gymnastics coach Ron Howard.

Sixteen-year-old Zachary Martin, who has qualified for the Junior Olympics for several consecutive years, is happy to see the number of qualifiers this year, noting that it’s the most he remembers seeing for the past few years.

Howard echoed that sentiment.

“I was actually only expecting three of them to make it but the other four completely surprised me. They really stepped up. These guys did a great job getting themselves ready for this competition. It was very humbling to watch,” Howard said of his students.

“It means a lot because it’s the first time I’ve made JO Nationals. I was really exhilarated because it’s a new experience for me. It’s pretty cool to fly out and compete with the best in the nation,” Jacob Martin, 14, said.