It took a little while for Priya Pachl to learn to love gymnastics. But thanks to a YouTube star and her own little brother, she gave it another chance and quickly proved her talent, winning a statewide competition this spring.
Priya, 8, won the AA Bronze Championships at the USA Arizona Xcel State Meet in April in her level of competition; her medal adorns her dresser.
“It’s fun, and I get stronger” are what the Casa Grande native likes about twirling, tumbling, jumping, and cartwheeling around the mat. She enjoys it enough that she held a “cartwheel-a-thon” and other fundraisers so she could pay for private lessons to improve her skills.
It’s a major turnaround for her, says dad Clint Pachl: “Just a few years ago she’d cry at the sight of the gymnastics bar.”
She first went to classes at Hot Spot as a timid 5-year-old who became even more so in the gym environment, even as her 3-year-old brother Remy kept going back for more. Next, she tried ballet but found that “too boring,” says mom Jennifer Srock.
It was an “America’s Got Talent” contestant, contortionist, and aerialist Sofie Dossi, who caught Priya’s attention and got her thinking about gymnastics again. “She wanted to freak people out by walking in a backbend like Sofie,” Srock says. “She was also pretty impressed with her younger brother.”
Priya was back at the Hot Spot at age 6 and started private lessons with owner and coach Brittany Cross the next year.
Mom says, “I really credit them with a lot because, Priya, she’s always been a wallflower, stuck to my side. And it’s really kind of helped her open up and be more confident. She is a really hard-working girl, and this has really brought that out.”
Her hard work paid off big-time at this year’s Arizona Xcel meet in Chandler at the Rawhide Event Center, where 27 teams from as far as Tucson, Yuma, and Flagstaff competed in the division geared to Priya’s age group.
The Hot Spot team placed ninth with only five members to contribute to its average score, much smaller than most of the other teams in its division. Srock says Cross is a talented coach who’s been able to bring out the potential in Priya and other students at her gym.
“Priya loves conditioning to be stronger. This little girl pushes through pain, pushes through doubt, and believes in herself to keep going. Coach Brittany teaches these girls to know what they’re capable of and to know they can always push themselves to improve,” dad Clint Pachl said.
Priya is looking forward to more competitions in the fall, including one hosted in Casa Grande by Hot Spot, but her career plans are fueled by her desire to create good-for-you gummi bears, her mom says.
Priya says, “I want to be a food scientist because I can make interesting, healthy foods.”