For Calamus-Wheatland graduate Chloe Bennett, gymnastics was everything.
Not only did it teach her perseverance and never to give up on what she wanted to achieve on the mat — and in life — but it also was something she truly loved.
Now, as a result of her dedication to the sport, she will receive help paying for school so she can pursue a career doing something else she loves — nursing.
The 18-year-old daughter of Clint and Deanne Bennett of Wheatland said her affection for acrobatics began when she was a little girl.
“I was always doing cartwheels in the yard,” Bennett said with a smile. “I was just very energetic. I liked flipping through the air. I was always begging my mom [to let me take gymnastics classes], but there was nothing close by.”
When she was 11 years old, she enrolled at Rhythm Avenue Performance Academy in DeWitt.
There, she took tumbling classes and was on the competition dance team as well. As much as Bennett enjoyed it, she wanted to focus her efforts more on gymnastics.
That’s when she joined Moser’s School of Dance and Gymnastics in Monticello, owned and operated by coach Debbie Moser.
In 2015, Bennett joined the school, which is affiliated with the United States Tumbling and Trampoline Association (USTA).
Her first year, Bennett said she fully immersed herself in everything. She participated in every single meet, and was on the competition team performing at the sub-novice level.
Bennett’s first year was her best, she said. She made it to the state championship, then moved on to the national competition in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Things went well, with Bennett finishing seventh in her flight, and 14th overall.
While the experience was entirely new to Bennett, she embraced every aspect of it.
“Oh, I loved it,” she shared. “I really did. When I was [competing], it was just me, my coach and the mat. I was so focused.”
Bennett worked hard over that summer, so much so that she was able to skip a level and advance to intermediate.
She pushed herself to excel at skills she had never tried before, and found the challenge as welcoming as it was humbling.
“It was definitely different,” Bennett related. “I used to be at the top of the podium; I had to work harder to get there.”
In 2018, she took college courses in addition to her regular school work. She also had a job. Bennett still practiced with her team, but no longer competed.
Intent on making the best of her senior year at Cal-Wheat, she started competing again and joined the school’s dance team, the Calamus-Wheatland Silver Stars, and even landed a spot on the competition team.
The team took fifth in the novelty category at the state level. As for gymnastics, Bennett attended quite a few meets working her way from the bottom of the podium to the middle.
Her scores were improving, and Bennett said what mattered most was she was enjoying herself.
Finding a career
While she would love to continue, Bennett said her body has signaled that her time with gymnastics has come to an end.
She will keep reaping the benefits of her time as a gymnast, as the USTA awarded her a scholarship to study nursing at Kirkwood Community College this fall.
It’s a field Bennett said she became interested in when she was young. However, after watching a video about donating blood in sixth grade, she fainted.
At that point in time, Bennett figured nursing was a no-go. But, not wanting to rule it out, she enlisted in Calamus-Wheatland’s nursing academy and began working at Wheatland Manor.
As it turned out, she loved it.
She believes the time she spent learning and competing in gymnastics instilled in her a drive to succeed.
She intends to put that effort into caring for others and is grateful to have had gleaned so much from an activity that brought her so much joy.
“It was very important to me,” Bennett shared. “I would drive 45 minutes to a [gymnastics] class that was only half an hour long, but I would spend extra time and money to stay as long as I could.
“There was a skill I could not get — an aerial [a no-handed cartwheel]. I worked on it for two years and finally got it. It proved my dedication and taught me never to give up. I’m sad I’m not going to be doing [gymnastics] anymore, but now I have a new passion — nursing. As long as I have something I love, I’m happy.”