Trio of local gymnasts hope to make history at US Championships at Sprint Center

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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. — At least three local teens will be competing for the Senior Women’s title when the U.S. Gymnastics Championships are held at Sprint Center in August.

That event will cap  a busy month for the trio as they hope to accomplish their ultimate goal of making the Summer Olympics.

When you’re on the beam, it’s all about balance. But for 16-year-olds Aleah Finnegan and Kara Eaker and 15-year-old Leanne Wong, life’s balancing act has never been so tricky.

They spend about 30 hours training each week at GAGE Center when they aren’t at school in Blue Springs, Grain Valley and Overland Park.

“It does get monotonous, but I know it will be worth it,” Finnegan said.

They are among the top eight gymnasts in the country’s rankings, a list that will be pared down to five after the U.S. Classic this weekend in Lexington, Kentucky. Those five will represent team USA in the Pan Am Games later this month in Peru.

“Being able to compete with them and travel with them and share this experience is just a really cool opportunity,” Eaker said.

Competitors in the Pan American Games will then have just four days between competitions before the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City on August 8-11.

“To find out it was going to be in my hometown, that was just like icing on the cake,” Finnegan said.

Finnegan’s coaches, Armine Barutyan and Al Fong, coached her sister Sarah, an alternate to the Olympic team in 2012.

“I had the opportunity to go to Rio (in 2016) and watch them in the Olympics, and now to be training with them it’s such a surreal experience,” Finnegan said.

“I would say some day, it’s going to be you. You are going to be raising and everyone’s watching and cheering you on. Now it’s their time,” Barutyan said.

Eaker won gold at World Championships last year as part of the U.S. team with Simone Biles. Wong, the youngest of the group, already won her first international competition, the American Cup. She gives credit to her teammates at GAGE Center.

“It’s great to have the competition next to you, instead of at another gym. You get to see them every day, and they are also pushing you along,” Wong said.

They hope to qualify for the Pan Am Games and come back with medals before performing for a big hometown crowd at the Sprint Center.

“It’s definitely an opportunity to show everyone here what I’m doing what I’m working so hard for, what I sacrifice for,” Eaker said.



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