Star Tribune Metro Gymnast of the Year Reagan Kelley of Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka. Photos by CARLOS GONZALEZ, Star TribuneSchool
Reagan Kelley is feeling much better now, and it shows.
The Mound Westonka junior is a little under two months from a sweep of the major Class 1A gymnastics championships. She and teammate Anna Mielke’s clutch uneven bars routines in the final rotation of the team competition helped Watertown-Mayer/Mound Westonka rally to win the team competition, and she followed with the best individual effort of her career to take home the all-around title the next day.
Those achievements make her the 2022 Star Tribune Metro Gymnast of the Year.
Ask her the genesis of such a strong season, and she gives credit where it’s due, to her teammates and her coaches, but also to simply feeling good.
Years of club gymnastics had taken its toll. Just before her sophomore year, Kelley figured it was time for a change. She left her club team, where she’d been since she was 3 years old, and switched to high school gymnastics.
“I didn’t have any friends outside of the club, and it was too hard on my body,” she said. “I needed a change.”
She had fractured her back three times, torn a labrum in her left shoulder, dealt with numerous ankle and knee injuries and had inflammation in the growth plate in her hip.
The difference between high school and club was obvious right away.
“It was more calming. I wasn’t in as much pain anymore. I didn’t need an ice bath after every practice,” she said. “My body feels a lot better.”
Feeling better equated to performing better. Buoyed by the Royals’ esprit de corps, she started loving gymnastics again. She helped them to their first Class 1A team title in 2021 and another in February, all capped off by a career-best score of 38.475 to win the all-around over teammate (and 2021 Metro Gymnast of the Year) Mielke by a tenth of a point.
Her victory, she said, is a residual of her renewed enjoyment of gymnastics. “I was crying so hard. Tears of happiness. I’ve never felt that much happiness,” she recalled. “It was the best decision I’ve made.”