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Pahrump’s Plant, 10, wins balance beam gold at states

Arianna Plant isn’t much for words, but if the 10-year-old Pahrump resident continues to do what she did last weekend in Reno, other people will do plenty of talking about her.

The young Level 4 gymnast traveled to the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino for the Nevada State Championships and won the balance beam in the Junior D division with a score of 9.775. Plant placed ninth on floor exercise (8.875), fourth on bars (9.400) and tied for third on vault (9.175), giving her a second-place all-around score of 37.225.

Each of those scores represented a personal best for Plant.

“It’s kind of a gymnast’s dream to hit everything in the same meet,” said her mother, Melissa Plant. “Because a lot of times, it will be ‘I did great on floor today, but I fell off the beam,’ or ‘I did great on this today, but I fell off the beam.’ She just had a phenomenal meet this time.”

At first, Melissa Plant coached her daughter, but the former captain of the Pahrump Valley High School cheerleaders, a 1991 graduate of the school, realized her daughter’s skills required a higher level of coaching.

“She goes to Gymcats in Henderson,” Melissa Plant said. “The owner, Cassie (Rice), is the Region 1 director, and that’s essentially the best gym in Vegas. If I’m going to drive that far, I’m going to take her to the best.

“We travel four days a week. Practices are three-and-a-half to four hours. She’s also doing dance team competition as well, and she competes this Saturday with the dance team. That’s her fun release. Gymnastics is more serious. And there are some skills in dance that are important to gymnastics.”

Arianna Plant started gymnastics when she was 6 years old because, as she explained, “I like flipping.” She lists bars as her favorite event, although she generally performs best on beam. But in Reno, it was her weakest event that gave her the most satisfaction.

“Floor,” she said. “Because I did my round off two back handsprings.”

Melissa Plant explained that maneuver had given her daughter some problems.

“She’s been having trouble since her birthday last year,” Melissa Plant explained. “Sometimes she needed a spotter or some extra support, but at the state meet she did it at full speed.

“You’re kind of throwing your head at the ground with your back handspring, and with a little bit of growth and a little bit of speed her head was coming faster and faster to the floor and it kind of scared her.”

The long hours of training gymnasts put in start early.

“Practice starts between 3 and 4, done around 8, home around 9:30 or 10 at night,” Melissa Plant said. “The only reason she can do it is that she’s home-schooled. School doesn’t get out until 3:15, and there was no way we could make it.

“When she was younger, having to speak really stressed her out, and to me the learning was more important than learning to speak. She has grown over the years, and now her teachers call and she talks to them on the phone, she’s starting to talk to her coaches at gymnastics, just a little bit more talking here and there.”

Plant is performing better than many gymnasts older than she is, evidenced by her 13th place overall out of 112 Level 4 gymnasts in the state. “That’s out of everybody, some of them being 12 and 13 years old,” Melissa Plant noted.

Arianna Plant and some of her fellow gymnasts are working on their Level 5 skills, and they will be assessed in June to see if they are ready for the next level. There are 10 levels, putting Plant almost halfway through the Junior Olympic program.

She could not name a favorite gymnast, but she did say that down the road her style will be most comparable to Simone Biles, who won gold in the all-around, vault and floor exercise at the 2016 Olympics.

Why emulate Biles? “Her power,” Plant said.

While Plant dreams of being an Olympian, her name is already listed among the nation’s best.

“Her 9.775 made top 100 for America’s Top 100 in gymnastics, so out of all of the Level 4s in the country she’s in the top 100 on beam,” Melissa Plant said.

For the soft-spoken Arianna, that says a lot.

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