Gymnastics help Byrd find her niche in life


Adam Minichino



Mallory Byrd likes to move. 


To satisfy her daughter, Val Byrd signed Mallory up to participate in dance classes so she could learn ballet, tap, and jazz steps. 


She quickly discovered Mallory needed a certain kind of movement. 


"It wasn''t her thing," Val Byrd said of the dance classes. 


It wasn''t difficult for the Byrds to find an alternative. 


Mallory''s love for watching Olympic gymnastics turned out to be the motivation to get involved in the high-speed, high-flying sport. 


Val Byrd wasn''t sure what her daughter was getting into. 


"At first I was afraid she would get injured," Val Byrd said. "When she used to do her bar routine I wouldn''t watch." 


Val Byrd has gotten over her fear in part because Mallory is apt to deliver an amazing or championship performance every time she competes. 


Last month, Mallory, 12, scored a 37.175 in the all-around to win the state championship in the Prep Optional 3 Gold Division in Tupelo. 


The victory secured Byrd a berth in the USA Gymnastics Prep Optional Regional, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday in Panama City, Fla. 


The Byrds were scheduled to leave for the meet this morning after Mallory went to school to take a test and to maintain perfect attendance since she started kindergarten. 


Byrd, who lives in Columbus, trains at the Starkville Gymnastics Club. She started in gymnastics last January and is primed to move up to level 7 next year. 


Val Byrd has been pleasantly surprised at how quickly her daughter has taken to gymnastics. 


"Much prayer (has helped me be able to watch her)," Byrd said. "I asked the Lord, ''Is this what she is supposed to do?'' There are negative things about all sports and there are going to be risks. But gymnastics? She loves it and is doing well." 


Mallory said her love of tumbling helped convince her to get started in gymnastics. She said she has learned to love the heights she can reach in her exercises and that she hasn''t been surprised she has had so much success so fast. 


"I go to practice on a regular basis and give 100 percent every time I go," Byrd said. "It is amazing that you can jump in the air and do all kinds of flips. It is really, really fun." 


Mallory said she wasn''t sure she would win a state championship March 21 because the first marks she earned were lower than the ones she had received earlier in the season. It took her a little time to figure out the judging was a little tougher. When she realized that she discovered she still was getting the top scores. 


Mallory believes the judging this weekend will be even tougher, but she said she excited about the challenge. 


"I think I am going to do well," Byrd said. "My parents are always proud wherever I finish." 


Val and her husband, Danny, will accompany Mallory to the regional meet. She said the six-plus hour drive will be worth it to see her daughter compete against some of the region''s top gymnasts. 


"I think it is great and awesome," Val Byrd said. "I have gotten over my fear of not being able to watch her. Now I love watching her floor routine the best." 


Mallory said the uneven bars are her favorite event. She said she loves being able to do handstands on the bars and flying from bar to bar. 


She also enjoys her mother can now watch her, and she said she will continue to do everything she can to amaze and to impress her.  


Ultimately, her dream is to represent the United States as a member of the Olympic team. 


"It is going to take a lot of hard work, but I watched the Olympics a lot when they came on and I said I was going to do it one day, and that''s how I got involved," Byrd said.


Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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