She might be the new girl at Highland Park High School, but Natalie Alkire hasn’t fit in among her gymnastics teammates. She stands out.
The University Park resident enrolled at HPHS as a junior after several years of homeschooling and immediately joined the school’s program in gymnastics, a sport in which she’s excelled for more than a decade.
She hasn’t been fazed by the transition, winning the all-around title in almost every meet this season for the Lady Scots, including their district meet on March 25. She is expected to qualify for the Texas High School Gymnastics Coaches Association state meet in April in suburban Houston, where she will be a legitimate all-around medal contender.
“For Natalie to be coming into high school gymnastics for the first time and be among the best is really good,” said HP head coach Brandi Wren. “I think some of the girls were pretty amazed.”
Alkire typically competes year-round for Texas Champion Gymnastics in Plano, but said the support of her new teammates has increased her enjoyment of the sport. Her success also has eased the transition to public school.
“It was overwhelming the first day. I wasn’t used to walking to class, and there were a lot of people,” Alkire said. “You still have the same nerves [during competitions], but it’s really nice to have a team there to support you.”
For the Lady Scots, Alkire’s arrival was timely following the graduation of Arielle Iola, who won an all-around state title last year as a senior. Alkire has provided a boost — both physically and psychologically — during what would have been a rebuilding year for the team.
“She’s continued to improve,” Wren said. “She’s much more confident than she was when she first walked in here.”
Alkire said floor exercise and uneven bars are her two favorite events, while balance beam is most often her nemesis. Although she still is passionate about the sport she started at age 5, she isn’t sure whether she wants to keep twisting and tumbling after her high school days are over.
Still, she has high hopes for the postseason, including the Region I meet on April 9-10 at Rockwall-Heath and the state meet on April 25-26 in Alvin.
“For the most part, I’ve been consistent,” Alkire said. “I just want to make my routines and do well.”