Courtesy of Kera Burdick
Accel Gymnastics’ 11-year-old sensation Rachel Burdick captured two gold medals in her club’s first international competition in June.
Welcome to the international gymnastics community, Accel Gymnastics.
Four local gymnasts returned home from Deventer, Netherlands with Accel’s first ever team gold medal in international competition. The Burlingame-based club — founded in 2009 by Matt Hodges — competed at the FAME SVOD Open June 28-29, with a quartet of Rachel Burdick, Aliyah Kamelamela, Karina Wade and Beth Wyatt winning first place in the Youth Division.
Accel also took gold in three individual events. Burdick took first place in the balance beam; she also took second place in the all-around, second in the floor exercise and third in the uneven bars. In the Senior Division, Britt Reusche took first place in both balance beam and floor exercise; and she also took second place in balance beam.
“All of us were moderately surprised,” said Burdick, an 11-year-old expert gymnast who has been with the club since it opened. “It’s surprising to think we got first place out of all the people who came.”
A total of seven Accel gymnasts made the trip, including Jolene Latief and recent Hillsdale graduate Savannah Lew. Latief, who competes in the Junior Division, advanced to the finals in both the balance beam and floor exercise. Lew advanced to the finals in the vault and the uneven bars, taking fourth place in the latter.
At 18, Reusche is one of the only competitors at the club with international experience. A native of Peru, she started her career when she was 7 after seeing her older sister Astrid perform as a recreational gymnast. Her sister eventually moved on to competitive fencing, following in their mother Ursula’s footsteps. Reusche, however, took off in the field of gymnastics.
As a member of Peru’s Junior National Team, Reusche competed at the South American Games earlier this year; in the Bolivarian Games in November 2013 where she won bronze in the team competition; and in the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships. The first time she competed on the international stage was as an 8-year-old when she travelled to Chile.
Reusche is finishing her high-school education at Cañada Middle College — a co-op program of Cañada College and the Sequoia Union High School District which maintains an enrollment of approximately 60 students, many of whom are full-time athletes. The purpose of her dedicating a fulltime five-day schedule to gymnastics is the pursuit of a collegiate career in the sport. She said she hopes to attend San Jose State in the fall of 2015.
Purpose is major motivator for Reusche, who relocated to the U.S. specifically to thrive in a more gymnastics-centric environment.
“There’s always a purpose … because I knew I wanted to be good,” Reusche said. “Now I feel at home here.”
Within the walls of Accel, Reusche — the club’s only top-tier Level 10 gymnast — carries herself very much like a star role-model, which she is to the younger gymnasts with whom she trains.
Burdick, at 11-years-old, is one of two Youth Division competitors currently with a Level 9 rating. She too has international lineage. A native of China, Burdick relocated to the U.S. for adoption when she was 2. She is now a full-fledged U.S. citizen. And it didn’t take her long to find her calling in the gymnastics world.
It should have been clear the moment she stepped on the playground at McKinley Elementary School, where Burdick immediately navigated towards the monkey bars.
“I liked it,” Burdick said. “I would swing on the bars and my preschool teachers would say, ‘Don’t go that high!’”
However, when she was 6, Burdick initially followed in the footsteps of her older sister Grace and was enrolled in ballet classes. It soon became clear she had more rambunctious energy than the ballet world would allow though.
“The gymnasts are probably the kids who can’t stand still when they stand at the ballet bar,” Accel coach Kelly Alliger-Keane said. “So, they try gymnastics.”
It was at an open house during Accel’s grand opening where Burdick was discovered by Alliger-Keane. When the club opened on Hinckley Road in Burlingame in 2009, the then 15,000-square-foot facility held free promotional events and saw kids turn out en masse, but Alliger-Keane quickly picked Burdick out of the crowd.
“I saw her walking across the beam kicking her legs,” Alliger-Keane said. “And I said, ‘Oh my God! Who’s that girl?’”
That girl turned in the top balance beam performance at the FAME SVOD Open last month. She did so by landing a standing back tuck, followed by two back handsprings, and landing a front layout dismount.
Burdick is still enrolled in ballet classes as well as piano classes. Music and dance are simply part of the whole gymnastics package though, she said.
“I do it for the gymnastics,” Burdick said. “And it helps you know what the beat is and where you’re supposed to go. And it helps you to get more flexible.”
Since the opening of Accel five years ago, the club has grown by leaps and bounds. Originally, Hodges opened the facility with a partner and it served as a multi-sports complex which also housed basketball and volleyball courts. When his partner moved elsewhere, Hodges not only converted to a total gymnastics facility. He expanded the business from 15,000 square feet to 30,000.
“We were growing and going into an Olympic year, and there’s always a boon,” Hodges said. “So, we knew we’d have one tough year … but after the Olympics, it wasn’t a problem.”
Among its enrollment of approximately 1,000 — including tumbling classes and daycare — Accel has 104 serious gymnasts on its roster.
And according to Reusche, it’s a misconception that competitive ego is more prevalent in the sport than friendly camaraderie.
“A lot of the people and competitions are the sweetest people you will ever meet,” she said.