HEART AND SOUL: Krista Zultevicz’s Dedication To Gymnastics Helped Make Her College Dreams Come True
Even through an ankle fracture and a couple sprains, taking a break from gymnastics was never an option.
Instead, Krista Zultevicz continued to make her daily trips to Northeast Gymnastics in Hanover Twp. Her training regimen had to be altered toward more upper-body and bar work, but there were no extra days off.
“When you can’t do it, you realize how much you love to do it,” a healthy Zultevicz said before working out this week. “When you’re at the top of your game, there’s just nothing you want to do that’s going to pull you away from it.”
Zultevicz, who’s from Shickshinny, never got away from chasing her dream of collegiate gymnastics, something that’s taken up the better part of her life. Her dedication has already been rewarded with a verbal commitment at the Division 1 ranks.
But even before she moves on to Kentucky, Zultevicz can make a name for herself on the national level. She’s one of two Northeast Gymnastics gymnasts who qualified for national championships this month.
Zultevicz, 17, is set to compete at the Women’s Junior Olympic National Championships in Indianapolis Saturday and Sunday. She trains with 13-year-old Anne Challman, who’s from Lewisburg and just returned from the Level 9 Eastern Championships in Kissimmee, Florida.
Challman came back from nationals with an 11th place showing in the floor routine and 12th in vault.
“It went well,” Challman said. “It wasn’t my best meet, but I had a lot of fun and I made a lot of friends there. It was an accomplishment just to make it there.”
Zultevicz, meanwhile, is about to take part in her third trip to a Junior Olympics national event, following a 2017 competition in which she placed fourth in the vault and a spot in 2015’s Junior Olympic NIT, where she was eighth in the beam.
“It definitely is an accomplishment. Not a lot of girls get to do that,” Zultevicz said. “It’s rare, especially coming from such a small town, to have huge opportunities like this. It really is a good opportunity.”
Challman and Zultevicz made it to nationals after placing within the top-seven at a regional championship in Virginia Beach. They finished third and fifth in the all-around, respectively.
For Zultevicz, it’s the latest step in her dream to compete in college.
It didn’t take long for her to realize gymnastics was her calling. Her mom figured that might be the case even sooner, introducing her to the sport at 8 years old when Krista started trying stunts between doorways and around the house.
Within a year or two, Zultevicz was a state all-around champion at Level 5 and progressing rapidly. Colleges began contacting her around the time she was an eighth-grader.
None of the success has come easy.
Zultevicz and Challman can be at Northeast Gymnastics for as many as four hours a day, six days a week, with training only intensifying during the summer. They sharpen their technique under coach Lori Dexter, whom Challman said is always supportive and has taught plenty of lessons in gymnastics and life.
A life revolving around gymnastics has also shaped Zultevicz, who learns time management through the sport as well as cyber-schooling.
“I can’t imagine what I’d be like today with gymnastics,” she said. “It definitely has trained you discipline and how to stay focused.”
Zultevicz hopes she nails all of her events this weekend. Though colleges across the country will dissect all the performances, she’ll have the comfort of knowing she has a spot waiting for her at Kentucky after she graduates next year.
Challman said she thinks she’s almost ready to join Zultevicz at Level 10, too. She’s only in eighth grade and hasn’t given too much thought to specific colleges yet, but she also has a Division 1 scholarship in mind someday.
“I really want to work hard to get there and get all the skills I need to do that,” Challman said.
“I love the feeling of competing,” she added. “I feel very accomplished when I’m done with a competition. I love meeting new people and getting new skills.”
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