Palisades High Gymnast Erica Bagby Wins All-Around Competition and Three Individual Events at IGC World Championships in Reno
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
For Palisadian Erica Bagby, it’s not how many times you fall that matters, rather how many times you can keep getting up off the mat. The 14-year-old gymnast has suffered few misssteps this spring and she saved her best for last by taking first place in the All-Around competition and adding three individual gold medals at the IGC World Championships last Thursday and Friday in Reno, Nevada.
She admitted that no one gets “Perfect 10s” but Bagby was head of the class in the Platinum Division (Level 9), the highest level of the the season-ending meet.
“I used to get so nervous I couldn’t eat, but 70 percent of this sport is mental and it’s about getting your head in the right place,” the lifelong Highlands resident said Sunday while enjoying a little rest and relaxation with her family in Mammoth after two strenuous days competing. “The first day I fell off the beam and Friday I fell off the bars, but you have 30 seconds to regroup and get back on.”
Bagby scored an 8.85 in floor exercise, 8.825 on the uneven bars, 8.75 on the vault and an 8.25 on the balance beam for an All-Around total of 34.7 on Thursday, qualifying her for the second day.
On Friday, she struck gold in floor exercise (9.05), uneven bars (8.0) and the vault (8.7) and was second on balance beam (8.95).
“Some of the judges are harsher than others but for the most part they’re all fair,” said Bagby, who took first on every apparatus at the state championships in Redlands in May. “If I had to pick one it’s the uneven bars because I’ve improved the most on that event. I like learning new skills. For floor exercise I choose my own music and have input on choreography but there are certain requirements you have to meet and the coaches give us our routines, which last about a minute and a half.”
Although training four days a week (15 hours total) has paid off, Bagby also benefits from “good advice” and “good genetics.” After all, her mom Nathalie used to be a professional tennis player in France and her dad Douglas played football and ran track at UCLA in the 1960s.
“This is my sixth year doing gymnastics and my first year I did pretty bad,” Bagby recalled. “Three years ago I got third place [at the world championships], two years ago I was second place and last year I got second again. I knew I had a good chance this time because I have much more confidence now in my skills and the higher you go in level the fewer gymnasts there are.”
Bagby started taking gymnastics classes at the Santa Monica YMCA at an early age. When she was 7 she joined JAG Gym in Culver City, where she still trains under the guidance of former USA Gymnastics member Olivia Courtney (floor and beam) and 2008 Texas state champion Glen McCuen (bars and vault).
As high as she has risen as a gymnast, Bagby has no aspirations of becoming an Olympian.
“I don’t think so… it’s too time-consuming,” she said. “We do less hours than the Junior Olympic program. They do 22 hours a week and we do 15, which is still a lot. The season is long, it started way back in February. I love flipping, I love being with my team and I love the workout I get but I’m taking a break.”
Besides, she has another passion to pursue.
“Pole vaulting,” said Bagby, who turns 15 in December. “It’s fun to be high in the air. It’s similar to gymnastics in that it requires speed and technique.”
A sophomore-to-be at Palisades High, Bagby took lessons once a week from UCLA pole vault coach Anthony Curran (her personal-best height is 10-6) in hopes of competing for Pali High last year, but ultimately decided to focus on “going for the gold.”
“I tried out for the track team and got on, but they added another day of gymnastics practice and it became too much,” said Bagby, who is fluent in English and French. “I got to know [City pole vault champion] Alex Olsen. I also like the 100 and 200 meters. As for the future, I’d like to pole vault at UCLA.”
After attending Le Lycée Français in Los Angeles from preschool through seventh grade, she switched to Paul Revere Middle School in eighth grade and enjoyed her freshman year at Pali High.
“I sometimes miss my old school but I like Pali because it’s close to home,” said Bagby, who has two half-brothers, a half-sister and a 6-year-old Golden Retriever/German Shepherd/Chow mix called Aidan. “I like going to the beach or the pool at the Summit Club. I like to shop at Third Street Promenade or in Century City. I went to a few football games at Pali and I have friends on the girls volleyball team.”
She added she might try surf camp this summer. At the end of July, she’s going on a cruise to Alaska. She also got a job at JAG helping coaches and kids.
“We’re driving back on July 4 but not in time for the race,” Bagby said. “Two years ago I ran the 5K for the first time and last Thanksgiving I tried the Turkey Trot 5K. It was fun.”