USA TODAY High School Sports Awards: Confidence, discipline anchor dynamic Ohio gymnast Paige Yu

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Highland High School Hornets phenom Paige Yu has earned a spot among the nation's premiere gymnasts.
Highland High School Hornets phenom Paige Yu has earned a spot among the nation's premiere gymnasts.

Ohio gymnast Paige Yu is described by her Highland High School coach as well-rounded.

So it is fitting the dynamo, who recently completed her sophomore year, captured the Ohio High School Athletic Association Gymnastics All-Around crown after finishing second as a freshman.

The Hornets' first state champion in the sport is an honoree for the inaugural USA TODAY High School Sports Awards show, presented by U.S. Polo Assn. The on-demand show, which will be hosted by Michael Strahan and Rob Gronkowski, will stream on the show website, YouTube and the USA TODAY News and USA TODAY SportsWire channels on Roku, Tubi and most smart TVs Thursday at 8 p.m. EST.

"I think it was a huge relief, knowing that all of my hard work had finally paid off at the end," Yu said regarding capturing the championship, placing in the top three in all four individual events. "Confidence is the key. If you're doubting yourself, you won't be able to get as far as you could if you had confidence. I just want to keep going and doing my best."

Highland High School Gymnastic Coach Jen Lewis said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gymnasts would log 16 to 25 hours per week in the gym honing their craft. But the pandemic reduced that time to two to three hours devoted to conditioning as a means of maintaining strength and flexibility.

"Paige came out and was able to push all of that aside," she said. "It was a huge challenge mentally and physically and the biggest transition was the mental aspect and maintaining confidence. She is a well-rounded person who works hard, comes in with a goal in mind and knows how to attain that goal."

Yu has two sisters that have competed in gymnastics. She said the season was exciting for a variety of reasons, particularly the return to the team environment.

"When the people around me show me that I can do things, it gives me confidence," Yu noted. "The most exciting part of all the meets was having everybody around cheering for you, going for the same goal. We've been supporting each other for 10 years and it's been fun."

Highland High School (OH) gymnast Paige Yu,  who recently completed her sophomore year, captured the Ohio High School Athletic Association Gymnastics All-Around crown - becoming the Hornets' first state champion in the sport.
Highland High School (OH) gymnast Paige Yu, who recently completed her sophomore year, captured the Ohio High School Athletic Association Gymnastics All-Around crown - becoming the Hornets' first state champion in the sport.

Lewis said it has been rewarding to witness Yu's continual development.

"I can't speak enough about how amazing it is to watch her in her journey," she said. "Her growth has spoken volumes to me. Her mentality of being disciplined, executing her routines and maintaining her skills has expanded. Coming into the season, you saw a big smile on her face. I always tell everybody gymnastics is more than a sport. It really teaches discipline."

In addition to gymnastics, Yu is also passionate about music. She said it has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember.

"I've been in the marching band, I've been in choir, and I sing with my family, too," she said. "I play instruments with my family and we're all very musical. I don't think a day goes by where we're not singing to each other."

And music most certainly has a role within gymnastics, Yu said.

"Doing gymnastics, you kind of get a rhythm in your head," she said. "Like on beam, you can't have too slow of a rhythm. I always try to put a fast rhythm in my head, so that I can keep going no matter what happens. On floor, you've got to have (that) musicality, presenting to the judges and the audience to make yourself stand out."

Yu, who listed Tokyo Olympics All-Around gold medalist Sunisa Lee among the gymnasts she observes, said competing in the sport has enabled application of some of the tools to other avenues of her life.

"I've definitely learned a lot of time management lessons, as well as perseverance," she said. "I'm in the gym 20 hours a week this summer and I'm also coaching children at the gym. I love seeing the sparkle in their eyes."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Paige Yu captured the OHSAA Gymnastics All-Around crown this season.