Flying high is part of the thrill of gymnastics, according to 17-year-old Christian Marsh, but flying high and doing vaults and tumbling routines on a platform was something new.
Marsh, a senior at Clarksburg High School, placed third in the all-around competition among 17/18-year-old boys at the prestigious Metroplex Challenge gymnastics meet held in Fort Worth, Texas on the last weekend in January. The Metroplex Challenge is the largest gymnastic competition in the world. It is comprised of men’s and women's’ gymnastics for juniors and adults, as well as an important women’s NCAA tournament, and a national trampoline and tumbling competition.
Although he’s been competing since he was six years old, this competition was different. He said it was a bit intimidating because of the big stage. Not a figurative big stage, a really big stage.
“It was on a stage, or a platform. All of the events were on these platforms which were raised up off the floor. It was a little nerve-wracking to realize that, ‘Hey, if I tumble too far I am literally falling off.’
“I was nervous coming into the competition,” which is an important tune-up before the National Championships which will be held in Cincinnati in May. “Then I get there and discover that all the events take place on a podium that is three or four feet off the ground, on top of the events being quite high. The rings tower itself is like 19-feet high, and the rings dangle about 10 feet off the ground. So, you add the rings tower, the landing mats, and the podium and you start to see that the competition takes place very high off the ground.”
“It was truly something special to fly from Maryland to Texas and compete,” said Marsh, who trains at Preston Gymnastics Academy in Gaithersburg. “Texas has one of the biggest and best gymnastics regions in the country. The gymnasts there are very, very highly skilled. I came into this one never expected to place. The Texas boys always bring their A-game. They are always on top of it.”
Marsh said when he starts to think about the level of competition and the height of the events it took all he had to stay focused. “I’d look around I start to get nervous and jittery, and I have to calm myself down and take deep breaths. I imagine myself going through the motions and try to slow my heart rate down. I don’t want to be too amped and throw off my balance. I gave it my all and did the best I could. I just happened to come out in the top three.”
Not only did Marsh finish third in the All-Around competition, but he also finished first in the competition on Pommel Horse event, came in third overall in the Vault, tied for third in the Floor Exercise, and fourth in the Rings and Hi-Bar competitions, and finished fifth in the Parallel Bars. “I never dropped below fifth for the entire competition,” he said.
“My favorite event is pommel horse,” not surprisingly he finished first in that event. “All gymnastics events are difficult, and most of them are scary. Pommel horse is difficult, but not quite as scary. However,” he notes, “it is just that much more difficult which makes up for not being as scary. It is one of those things where no matter how much you practice, even the best in the world who have been working a routine for their entire lives and even they make mistakes. It all boils down to having to overcome nerves rather than straight repetition. Pommel is all about not getting jitters. You are holding up your entire body with just your hands on wooden handles that are two inches thick. It is a mental challenge, which is what I enjoy. The mental aspect as well as the physical challenge. I am really satisfied when I am able to complete the routine.”
The Clarksburg resident is a senior and hopes to continue his gymnastics career in college next year. “Making the Olympic team would be amazing, but first I am trying to get into college and compete on a college team. That is my many concern right now,” said Marsh, who has received interest from the U.S. Naval Academy and William & Mary University, among others.
He’s no stranger to the winners’ pedestal. Marsh has done very well at national competitions before; he’s earned three national medals. “I have a fifth-place medal on rings. I have fourth place medal on parallel bars, and fifth place medal for All-Around, all the national level.”
Marsh said that he’s planning to return to the Junior Olympics National Championships, which are being held in Oklahoma City this May. But first, Marsh must do well at the Region 7 Championships which are coming up in New Jersey in April.
Region 7 includes Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Last year, Marsh placed third overall in the Regionals. He’s competed in Nationals since the age of 11.
Top: Christian Marsh, of Clarksburg, competes in the Pommel Horse Event at the Metroplex Challenge at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Texas, January 26 through January 29. Marsh finished third in the All-Around Competition and first in the Pommel Horse Event.
Next: Christian Marsh (in the middle wearing blue) with his third place medal in the All-Around Competition at the Metroplex Challenge in January.
Next: Clarksburg’s Christian Marsh twists and flies during a routine at the Metroplex Challenge in Texas. He finished third overall in the competition.
Photos courtesy Christian Marsh.