Senior gymnast excels in sport, commits to Kent State
When Zoe Rankin was younger, she looked up to older girls she trained with for gymnastics. Now, the Bellefonte Area High School senior hopes to be the same kind of gymnast who’s also a role model for younger kids like she once was.
Her dedication, passion and talent for the sport not only makes her a young woman who others look up to, but it also helped secure her a spot on the NCAA Division I gymnastics team at Kent State – a place she said already feels like home.
“I love it and college was always my dream,” she said. “When I was young, I always looked up to the older girls and realized I could be as good as them some day. Having a higher goal to keep reaching was something I could look forward to, knowing that if I really worked hard I could achieve that.”
Rankin, now 18, began in the sport when she was 2 with “mommy and me” classes, she said. More than 12 years ago, she joined the team at her gym, making it to level 10 and practicing nearly five hours a day.
“I really don’t have time to do anything else, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to take,” she said, also explaining that she’s invested in all four gymnastics events – bar, beam, floor and vault – at Centre Elite Gymnastics in Patton Township.
Training she added, also goes beyond just the routines. Much of it also is based on strength and endurance.
But it’s not without its obstacles. That, Rankin said, comes with critique she uses to improve and the loss of a longtime coach who she said helped mold her into the gymnast she is today.
“He’s someone I still really look up to,” she said about former coach Mike Rizzuto, who owned Nittany Gymnastics Academy where Rankin trained until it closed in 2020. “I attribute a lot to him.”
And while it comes with a lot of commitment, Rankin advises those new to the sport to work hard, have fun and use the challenges as motivation.
“It’s a really mental sport, so use everything you can for motivation, but also have fun and enjoy it because you don’t want to be in a sport that brings you down,” she said.
While at Kent State, Rankin plans to study exercise science with aspirations to be a physical therapist. Until then, she said she plans to continue to train with a goal to make it back to nationals.
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD