Tyra Turner photo

Madison La Follette senior Tyra Turner, the top performer on the Madison United gymnastics team, wraps up a routine on the balance beam.

Lots of people have seen Tyra Turner compete in sports during her four years at Madison La Follette.

The senior has competed in five sports — two of them (softball, track) during the same spring season.

Not only does she compete, she excels.

“She has an amazing drive that allows her to focus on the current sport she’s in,” Madison United gymnastics coach Hannah King said.

Turner has qualified for the WIAA state track and field each of her first three years, and has twice been named a second team All-Big Eight Conference outfielder.

She also qualified for state in gymnastics last season, her first competing in the sport at the high school level.

“Last year was just really fun,” Turner said. “I have always loved gymnastics and it was just fun to be back.”

After playing every sport she could while growing up, when Turner entered high school, she was forced to make some decisions. This was especially true with gymnastics, a sport which often requires year-round training.

“I didn’t think I would be able to try all those other sports if I did gymnastics,” Turner said. “So I took the safe route and played basketball so I could try everything else.”

But after two years of basketball, Turner began to miss the sport she grew up with.

“I just realized basketball wasn’t where my heart was,” Turner said.

So she transitioned back to gymnastics as a junior, joining the East/La Follette co-operative program. And she fell in love with the sport all over again.

“Since it was my first season back, I didn’t really have many expectations,” Turner said. “I just wanted to have fun and see where it took me.”

It took her all the way to the state meet in Wisconsin Rapids, where she placed eighth in Division 1 on the uneven bars, seventh in vault and fifth in the floor exercise — good enough for a 10th-place finish in the all-around.

Her United team, however, didn’t make it to state, finishing third in its sectional. “It was unfortunate … because that was kind of our season goal,” Turner said.

Last year’s successful season led the United gymnasts to expect even more this season, but the crew has been met with a slew of obstacles. The team lost a group of talented seniors, including half of the formidable Ramsey sister duo, Celia, who graduated. The other Ramsey, junior Rachel, struggled through a number of injuries last season and therefore decided not to come out this year.

“(Turner) lost Celia, who she was really close to, and then Rachel didn’t come out. So I think that has been hard on her,” King said.

And then came what King called “a black cloud” of injuries and illness throughout the season. As a result, Turner is left as one of the few experienced leaders on the team. The role has been a unique and sudden change for Turner, but she has met it head-on.

“We’re really young, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of the freshmen on the team,” Turner said. “It’s been an amazing experience to get to see them improve.”

Although the team has struggled, individually Turner has consistently been one of the Big Eight’s top performers. At United’s own Purgolder Invitational in January, she swept all four events and the all-around.

Even if this season hasn’t started out exactly the way Turner hoped, she remains grateful for every moment she has with her team and the sport she loves.

“I know that there are a lot of people less fortunate than me who don’t have the opportunities I do,” Turner said. “I have the ability to do all of these amazing things, and I don’t want to waste that.”

That sentiment carries over into another feature of Turner’s mature demeanor.

She is planning on attending the University of Wisconsin next year and is focusing on playing softball. It’s a goal that would be a distraction for many young student-athletes, but for now, Turner is focused in on wrapping up her high school gymnastics career.

“She just wants to get her routines done clean and get to state,” King said. “I know she’s excited about softball, but for now, it’s on the back burner.

“Right now, she’s focused on gymnastics. She’s got a lot of season left.”