Champlin Park’s Chaney Neu isn’t used to falling out of first-place in high school gymnastics meets.
Over the last two seasons Neu, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, took home first-place in the all-around event at every regular season and section meet, and her lone third-place finish came at last season’s state meet.
This year, she believed that she could accomplish her goal of taking home first-place in every meet, including at the state meet.
“I knew if I had a good meet, I averaged a 38.2 all year and I had a couple 38.4s, I could do it,” Neu said. “The girl won with a 38.1-something last year.”
Neu was able to put together a score of 38.500 as she became the youngest all-around state champion in the history of the Minnesota state gymnastics meet.
“There were so many good girls there,” Neu said. “If I would have taken just one more step I would have taken second or third.
“There was another really good girl that could have gotten first, too.”
Neu was able to win by .025 points, as Edina senior Megan Haug was on Neu’s tail the entire meet.
“Most state tournaments are going to be that close,” Neu said. “You just have to focus on all the tiny little things.”
Neu credited her Champlin Park coaches, her club coaches and her friends and family for supporting her while she worked toward the state all-around title.
Neu’s mother, Kimberly, said she is proud of the way her daughter competed at the state meet.
“She works so hard and she is a really good girl, and a good student and I’m happy her hard work paid off,” Kimberly Neu said. “She sets a lot of goals and I’m happy she was able to accomplish some of them. I can only be proud and happy for her.”
While Neu became the youngest state all-around champion in Minnesota history, Kimberly Neu is just happy her daughter was able to take home the title at some point during her high school gymnastics career.
“I think it puts more emphasis on the fact that anyone can accomplish their dreams if they set their mind to it,” Kimberly Neu said. “I don’t think it would have mattered for us what age she accomplished it, just as long as she does accomplish her goals.
“I’m a firm believer that if you set goals and work hard, then you will accomplish them.”
Kimberly Neu said that while her daughter was anxious and nervous leading up to the state meet last year, she said Neu was happy and enjoying the moment this year.
The state meet kicked off with the bar routine, which didn’t go Neu’s way, as she received a score of 9.425, 3.25 points out of first-place.
“After bar I thought I didn’t have a chance,” Neu said. “Then I felt inspired to do better in my other events, and after the beam and floor I knew I was still in it.”
Champlin Park head gymnastics coach Jon Wynia believed that Neu could get back in the running for the state title, despite the rough start to the meet.
“I pulled her aside and told her that if she keeps doing what she was doing in practice, then she could reasonably go 9.6 or 9.7 on beam, you can go 9.7 on floor, and 9.8 on vault,” Wynia said. “She went and hit the beam routine and got a 9.5 on beam when they were judging very tight, then we went to floor and she stuck every landing, which is something I have been working on with her.
Neu went on to get a score of 9.550 on the balance beam, before nailing her floor routine to score 9.725.
“Floor kept her in the argument,” Wynia said. “Typically when she throws her blind front change in a bar routine she averages around 9.575 to 9.6.
“Because she doesn’t have another bar change and she took a second step on her double, which she normally doesn’t, she took a small step, her bar score came in as a 9.425.”
Going into the vault, Neu said she knew she had to put together a good performance in order to win.
“I got a 9.7 at sections, so I knew that if I pulled off a good vault, I didn’t think I was going to get that, but if I did a good vault I could win,” Neu said. “I had a bad bar routine, so I knew I had to make my other events better.”
Neu then sealed her state all-around title with a 9.8 on her second vault.
“It was definitely that vault. Her first vault was a very solid lay out, and they had her at a 9.725, and if that was the final result and her best vault, she would have been second.
“Chaney has a phenomenal vault and she sometimes relies on that, so we have been working on her turn on the board.”
When the final results came in Wynia said he was not surprised to see Neu had won the all-around.
“I wasn’t surprised by her competing at that level, because she has always been a rock-solid competitor,” Wynia said. “But when you sit down it really hits you that as an eighth-grader she won the all-around, which is a huge deal and a big accomplishment.”
Neu said she didn’t know she had won the all-around until her name was called during the awards ceremony.
“I knew I was going to be first or second, but I really didn’t know,” Neu said. “My hard work paid off and I got first-place in every meet this year.
“I also got first-place in every meet last year except for state.”
For Neu, the state all-around title is the highlight of a gymnastics career that began when she was four. Neu remembers teaching herself new skills in her family’s living room, while she spent 20 hours per week perfecting her skills during the club season and spending more time working on skills herself at home or in the back yard.
While she knows winning the state all-around title is an important accomplishment, she knows there are many young gymnasts that are capable of repeating her accomplishment.
“Anybody that just came out of club can do the same thing,” Neu said. “It’s not just me, anybody could have done it.”
Neu plans on competing in high school gymnastics over the next four years, while she is also interested in joining dance. When she graduates from Champlin Park High School, Neu said she wants to study to become either a lawyer or a veterinarian.
Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.