Benoit balances her act

Benoit balances her act

By Sam O’Keefe

A double layout, front handspring, roundoff double back, yurchenko vault. Do you know what these all are? AHS senior Rachel Benoit certainly does, with exceptional passion and experience. Benoit, a familiar face of the AHS and Arlington community, a talented student, and a friend of many, currently stands in the top 5-10 gymnasts in the state and region.

She has already traveled to 12 different states to compete and is eager to see February break arrive for a trip to a competition in Puerto Rico. Having begun gymnastics at the age of three, Benoit stands as a high-achieving, motivated individual who lives and breathes gymnastics, consistently developing her skill throughout her childhood and now into adulthood.

Waking up at 6:30am, she attends a regular school day, teaches from 3:30-4:30pm, practices 4:30-8:30pm, and returns home to start homework for Honors and AP classes. From where does this passion stem? It seems to be in her DNA, despite having no relatives christened to the sport. The gymnast explains, that “At the age of three, I spent more time walking on my hands than on my feet”.

It was without hesitation that her parents brought her to a recreational gymnastics class while she was in preschool, which she attended for about three years, until her coach recognized her inborn skill and advised a more competitive and elevated level. She has been at Gymnastics and More in Woburn since 2004.

Currently practicing a minimum 24 hours a week, Benoit has progressed in her skills and intensity. As a current level 10 gymnast, the rigor and challenge are parts of the package, as Benoit writes, “by no means is practice relaxed. Everyday I am working to clean up and perfect my skills.”

Benoit’s favorite skills at which she has worked “incredibly hard” include the double layout on floor and the roundoff double back on beam, skills commonly performed at top Division 1 colleges.

One of her dreams is competing at the D1 college level. There is indeed a baseline formula for this level of competition to be reached; one must compete for a private gymnastics club and make it to the JO (Junior Olympics) at nothing lower than a level 10.

Benoit clarifies that her goal every year is to compete to the best of her abilities and qualify for the JO. Not only does she maintain her never-waning dedication to the sport and level, but also upholds impressive grades and a social life.

She says, “I work hard, am disciplined, and balance [and] manage school and gymnastics so I can succeed at both.”

Benoit  points out that, “every girl’s dream is the be in the Olympics, but it is incredibly hard to make it [there], especially in gymnastics”. As the image of the five notable rings has always been in the back of her mind, Benoit upholds the utmost pride and sense of accomplishment in all that she has achieved and looks positively to her future.

At the end of the day, the astute gymnast bears a nostalgic yet ardent mindset, coaching preschoolers and kindergarteners for an hour each day. Surely, some of these fledgling beginners will pursue an impressive and motivated path, following Benoit’s footsteps.

Benoit reminisces,“It feels like it was just the other day that I was the little girl who fell in love with gymnastics, and now I’m the coach helping other little girls chase their gymnastics dreams.”   

Benoit boasts Shawn Johnson as her role model and favorite gymnast, sharing that they each bear similar “strong and muscular” physical builds. She has met Johnson and acquired her autograph.

Benoit’s patent passion for gymnastics has undeniably transformed into part of her identity. She shares, “I have dedicated most of my personal life to gymnastics. Without gymnastics, I surely would not be the same person.”

Benoit will be attending Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, this coming fall.