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CERSOSIMO: Rew reaps benefits of hard work, dedication

Hard work does pay off.

And Amelia Rew garnered the benefits of it last weekend in her final meet of her gymnastics career at the NCAA Regional Gymnastics Meet in Corvallis, Ore.

In working alongside her day in and day out from 1998 to 2008, I can honestly say she's one of the hardest working athletes out there.

From 1998 until spring of 2003, we carpooled to practice and competed in the sport at All American Gymnastics Academy in Sioux Falls. In four years, there was anywhere from three to five girls in the carpool -- we were called "The Mitchell Girls."

During that time, The Mitchell Girls attended up to four practices a week and each practice was from 4 to 8 p.m. If anything was going to prepare a gymnast for gymnastics beyond high school, it's a club program -- something Mitchell didn't have until the mid-2000s.

As someone who always struggled with strength and conditioning, I always envied Rew's ability to pump out countless sets of leg lifts, pull-ups and rope climbs, in particular.

While I struggled to get up the rope, which is roughly 20 feet long, she hauled to the top without the use of her legs, which were straight out in front of her in an L-sit. She was always determined to push herself until she couldn't push anymore.

Rew improved throughout her years at AAGA, excelling through Levels 5, 6 and 7, and eventually made the Level 8 Regional Competition in fifth grade.

Because of several reasons, the carpool broke up and The Mitchell Girls' run at AAGA ended.

Then in 2004 while kids were enjoying their summers at the swimming pool, Rew was training five days a week at Lake Owen Gymnastics and Action Sports Camp in Cable, Wis.

LOC was a camp where aspiring gymnasts came to learn new skills by working with new coaches -- including college coaches from Division III to Division I schools -- and to hang out at the lake and enjoy camp life. Camp, with one of the country's top facilities, lasted anywhere from eight to 10 weeks during June, July and August.

While campers participated in the camp's recreation activities, you could often find Rew in the gym practicing or conditioning. She spent an average of 30 hours in the gym per week during the summer.

I specifically remember a practice where we did bars for hours. There were on and off days, and this day was a struggle. We both struggled on our skills, until finally we made enough progress that our coach, Tom Jones, told us to be done for the day. But Amelia wanted that skill. She worked and kept at it until she was satisfied with what she'd accomplished.

As we took our grips off, she looked at me and we cringed at the sight of her hands. They were blistered and bloody from the countless turns she took, but that was her.

She was never satisfied with mediocrity.

At the beginning of each summer, goals were set as to which skills were achievable. Rew never failed to achieve those goals.

During the school year, those new skills and talents were showcased during the high school gymnastics season, where she helped lead the Mitchell Kernels to back-to-back state team titles in 2007 and 2008. She finished her high school career with seven individual titles -- five of which she won in her final South Dakota state meet as a junior.

She earned a Division I full-ride athletic scholarship with the Arizona State University Sun Devils. Only a handful of South Dakota gymnasts have achieved a D-I scholarship right out of high school. Rew is the only Mitchell gymnast to do so.

With 62 Division I women's programs and 12 full-ride scholarships available per year, the dream is one many don't achieve. To put it into perspective, there are only 82 total college gymnastics programs from Division I to Division III, which is 12 times fewer than the amount of college basketball programs in the nation.

Rew graduated high school early and sacrificed the final half of her senior year to accept the scholarship. Throughout her college career, there was success and heartbreak in the form of stuck routines and season-ending injuries. She ended on a high note last weekend.

The senior led Arizona State with a team-best on the uneven bars -- the only event she competed in -- at the NCAA Regional Meet. She recorded a 9.75 and felt a combination of excitement and sadness, she said.

The Sun Devils scored a 195.7 and finished in third place, one spot shy of qualifying for the national championships. It was the team's best finish since 2006.

And for the majority of gymnasts, the road ends after college. There is no professional league unless you take a full-time job training for the Olympics, which is very rare.

Rew proved that hard work and dedication pays off in the end. Some athletes thrive and others succumb in their final go, and most of that is based on how you're trained.

It's clear that Rew was prepared for the end through years of hard work, and she knew that when she left the mat.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.