Colonel’s gymnast daughter has Olympic dreams

Melanie Salazar

Not many 10-year-olds find themselves in practice at least nine hours a week, but not many 10-year-olds can stand on their feet after doing a double back flip.
AnnMarie McClelland, daughter of Lt. Col. Patrick McClelland, 27th Operations Support Squadron commander, has been a gymnast almost half of her life. At 6, she began taking gymnastics lessons in Clovis. Moving her training to Muleshoe a year later, the 10-year-old found her passion on the trampoline when she joined the South Plains Acrospirits.
Already a dedicated gymnast, AnnMarie practices three times a week for three hours at a time to build her talents and prepare her for competition.
A repeat medalist in the National Junior Olympics, AnnMarie also has some plans for her future.
“I want to go to the Olympics,” she said. “It looks really fun.”
Last month, AnnMarie attended the National Junior Olympics — winning the bronze medal on the trampoline. Her finish came as a surprise to the young gymnast who had recently opened the door to more intense competition.
“Last year at the National Junior Olympics, she competed at a level 6,” mother Lisa McClelland said. “This year she moved up to a level 9.”
A three-level jump like that isn’t common, she said.
“We just did what her coach thought she could do.”
Though AnnMarie surprised herself at the competition, coach Amanda Bailey, 19, said she was confident AnnMarie could hold her own against the tougher competitors.
“I knew that if she went out and did what she was supposed to that she could get a medal,” she said.
Describing her as a great athlete, Bailey said AnnMarie is also a perfectionist — striving to overcome any weaknesses in her performance.
“She’s the type of kid that will do something over and over and over again until she corrects a mistake.”
Perfecting her skills seemed almost automatic to AnnMarie, who said she’s always working to get better.
“Every time I mess up, I keep doing it until I get it right,” she said.
In her latest routine at the National Junior Olympics, AnnMarie landed a double back flip, proving her persistence was not in vain.
“I had never landed that before,” she said. “I was really happy.”
Mrs. McClelland said her daughter has a knack for competing under pressure.
“She always pulls it out,” Mrs. McClelland said. “She always gives her best performance at big competitions.”
Though the scene can be intimidating, especially the Junior Olympics, which hosts 1,400 competitors, AnnMarie said she just tries to stay focused when it’s her turn.
“I get scared when I’m down on the floor,” she said. “But what’s going through my head is, ‘I have to do this.’”
Bailey said that while nerves can make some athletes perform below their skill level, that didn’t seem to be the case with AnnMarie in her last competition.
“She dealt with it well and she used it to her advantage,” Bailey said. “That adrenaline made her bounce a little higher.”
Having watched her progress over the past three years, Bailey said AnnMarie’s high hopes for the future aren’t out of reach.
“I think she’s one of the best kids in her age group in the nation,” Bailey said. “Hopefully next year, she’ll get to travel and compete internationally. That way she’ll already have international experience under her belt.”
While the McClellands don’t know exactly what the future has in store for their daughter, Mrs. McClelland said the road thus far has always been up to AnnMarie.
“She’s always kept a positive attitude,” Mrs. McClelland said. “She’s gone through phases, but she has never once said, ‘okay mom, I’m done.’”