Olympic gold ties with A&T

Tumbling and acrobatics team prepares for their next competition. Carlye Thornton | Lariat Photographer
Tumbling and acrobatics team prepares for their next competition.
Carlye Thornton | Lariat Photographer

By Caroline Lindstrom

Shayla Kelley’s gymnastic meets always ended differently than other children’s.

“My mom had to leave my meets before awards because people would swarm to get her autograph or take pictures with her,” said Kelley, a freshman acrobatics and tumbling team member.

Shayla’s mother is Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton.

Retton won the all-around gold medal in gymnastic, along with two silver and two bronze medals, in the 1984 Olympic Games.

Although Retton clearly has a passion for gymnastics, she did not force Kelley to be in classes when she was younger.

Kelley played soccer and softball and ran track before discovering she had a love for gymnastics too.
“My dad actually suggested I get into gymnastic classes so I could build my upper body strength for softball,” Kelley said.

At 9 years old, Kelley began gymnastics, which she remained in for nine more years.
Retton never coached her besides giving pointers when Kelley asked.

Her favorite part of gymnastics is that it’s a self-motivating sport.

She likes the independent nature of a gymnastic meet because she is a competitive person.
Kelley’s junior and senior year of high school, she worked hard to make it to the level her mom did in the gymnastic world.

“Genetics don’t get you to the Olympics,” Kelley said. “Hard work and dedication does and the Olympics just weren’t on my path.”

Her path differed from her mother’s and led her to the acrobatics and tumbling team at Baylor.
Kelley was excited about the Christian atmosphere at Baylor because it was similar to her high school in Houston.

Once she arrived at Baylor, Kelley immediately became close with her whole team.

“Shayla has an excellent work ethic and goes above and beyond for this team. She has a drive to be a winner,” said head coach LaPrise Harris-Williams, head coach.

Kelley said the hardest thing about joining the acrobatics and tumbling team is adjusting to the team aspect of the sport.

The acro team isn’t just one competitor against a balance beam or the uneven bars.

This is a team of 46 women who work hard to pull of elaborate stunts. However, she finds it “uplifting and motivating” to have close bonds with all the girls on the team.

“Shayla is a hard worker that pushes everyone around her. She wants the best for the team and will do anything to help the team achieve our goals,” said Tori Jackson, senior acrobatics and tumbling member.

As for Retton, she trusts Coach Harris-Williams to do her job and prepare the team for meets.

In fact, Harris-Williams says other parents are more involved than Retton is.

She has let Kelley run her own course through gymnastics and not pressure her through decisions but support her through whatever she does.

“Shayla’s parents worked hard to raise their children normally, even though her mom is a well known person in our sport,” Harris-Williams said.

Kelley rarely thinks of her mother as “Mary Lou Retton,” who even has a flip named after her on the uneven bars. She’s not even sure where her mother’s medals are stored.

However, perks such as attending the Golden Globes come around every now and then. Kelley said she appreciates having a mother who lets her follow her own dreams.

“Overall she’s just the gold medal mom,” said Kelley.

Acrobatics and tumbling’s next home event is at 6:30 p.m. March 29 against Oregon.