Gymnast and Lincoln Academy senior Lilia Hayford is the Maine state champion in both vault and bars for the third year in a row. Lilia competes in the Excel Platinum 17+ division of Maine YMCA gymnastics, and in addition to coming in first place in Maine in two events, she placed third in the All-Around State Competition.
Lilia, who started learning gymnastics when she was four, and has been competing since she was five, said, “I love gymnastics not only because it’s fun but because it’s challenging. I am faced with challenges at every single practice I go to, whether I’m attempting a new skill or trying to perfect an old one, but that’s exactly what makes it so fun.”
Next week Lilia will travel to New Hampshire to compete in the Regional YMCA Championships at St. Anselm’s College on May 13. This will not be her first time competing in the Regional Championship, which draws gymnasts from all the New England states plus New York. She has qualified every year since she began competing, and is a multiple Regional Champion in bars and vault.
Lilia’s mother Liz Hayford wrote in an email that Lilia is “wrapping up a 14-year career in gymnastics on a high note… It is not often that a child sticks with a sport for that long and is that successful and dedicated”
Asked what it is like to have competed in one sport for so long, Lilia said, “To have been doing only gymnastics for 13 years is and always will be something I am very proud of. I have invested many hours practicing and competing and I’m so glad I did because I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t.” As for finding time for both her gymnastics schedule and her academic work, she said, “gymnastics is a year round sport with a short break in the summer, so balancing school work and activities with practices and competitions definitely hasn’t always been the easiest thing.” Still, Lilia’s love of gymnastics has propelled her forward, challenges and all.
This weekend’s New England Championship may be her final competition, since Lila has no current plans to compete after high school. “I would like to find a club team just so that I can keep practicing gymnastics without the pressure of competition. I may be a coach for my team next school year, but that’s not set in stone yet.”