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Photo Courtesy of: Julie VanderToolen
Lundyn VanderToolen, 10-year-old gymnast from Utah, wins Junior Olympic Gymnast of the Year award.

Lundyn VanderToolen, a 10-year-old LDS gymnast from Utah, was named International Gymnast Magazine’s Junior Olympic Gymnast of the Year. She is the first gymnast from Utah to win the award.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Ryan Kirkham, Lundyn’s coach, in a video posted on her YouTube channel. “It’s a huge honor for her, it’s a huge honor for the gym. We’re super excited. She deserves it, for sure.”

Lundyn started doing gymnastics when she was just 5 years old.

“I started watching the Olympics and I just wanted to do it,” Lundyn said about her inspiration to start doing gymnastics.

Kirkham said that Lundyn ’s talent was obvious from the start, and she was placed in an accelerated class. By the age of 6, she was already at Level 4 and competing in gymnastic meets. To advance to each level, gymnasts must master skills established by USA Gymnastics, the organization in charge of setting the standards, rules and regulations for gymnastics in the United States. Levels 1-3 are not competitive levels, but meant to help gymnasts prepare for competitions. Level 4, however, is the first competitive level, and to advance to Level 5, gymnasts must get a certain "mobility score" to show they have mastered the necessary skills to progress to the next level.

In order to qualify for the JO Gymnast of the Year, Lundyn’s 2016 scores were analyzed along side gymnasts from all across the country by a committee of officials from International Gymnast Magazine and Meet Scores Online. The committee then emailed the coaches and parents of the gymnasts with the top scores. In order to continue the process, both Lundyn’s coaches and parents had to consent.

Lundyn was then chosen out of 45 talented gymnasts, and the committee viewed videos of Lundyn’s competitions and training sessions. They saw that she was doing skills far above her level, and she made it into the top 15. Finally, the pool was narrowed down to five athletes, and eventually, the committee chose Lundyn for the award.

Lundyn said “it’s really exciting” to be the first person from Utah to win the award and to receive such a big honor at such a young age.

Lundyn has garnered much recognition, perhaps most exciting of all from Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, who took notice of Lundyn’s skill and sent her a congratulations video after winning JO Gymnast of the Year.

Lundyn, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, doesn’t show any sign of stopping. She’s at the gym Monday through Saturday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she trains twice a day. She goes to school when she doesn’t have morning practices — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — and is home-schooled by her mom the rest of the time.

When Lundyn isn’t training at the gym, she loves spending time with her family. She is the youngest of four sisters.

“We had lots of family discussions because it’s a huge sacrifice for the whole family, not just for (Lundyn),” said Julie VanderToolen, Lundyn’s mom. “Everyone was on board. Her sisters are so supportive of her. They make sacrifices for her, and they never complain. They’re all really proud of her.”

As for the future, Lundyn is currently training to become an Elite Gymnast, a level rarely achieved by such a young gymnast. One day, she hopes to be a part of the Red Rocks, the University of Utah’s women’s gymnastics team.

“She’s on the route to be an elite-level athlete,” Kirkham said. “She has the potential … and that’s what we’re training for.”