Practice to the podium: Training key to young gymnasts’ success


Three young gymnasts have been working hard to become state champions in their sport.

Each won first place in their age division for the all-around category — a category of gymnastics that includes all events in which the champion of an event earns the highest total score from all events combined — at the Indiana State Championship gymnastics meet March 11 in South Bend as part of the Interactive Academy team.

But the road to success was not an easy one for the gymnasts, who train at Interactive Academy in Zionsville.

Zionsville residents Eli Lock and Landry Grey and Carmel resident Aaronson Mansberger each said hard work is the key to their success.

Each has their own unique strengths and abilities. Lock, 11, known by his team for his love of the high bar and attention to technique, said that becoming a champion in gymnastics takes hard work and lots of practice.

“I look up to my teammates and I see the skills they do, and I dream of doing those same skills, so I keep practicing drills so I can eventually do them,” said Lock, a fifth-grader at Zionsville West Middle School. “You have to keep practicing to learn the skills, and eventually you will.”

Mansberger, 17, a powerhouse on the pommel horse, said physical strength is crucial.

“Physical strength is important in gymnastics,” said Mansberger, a junior at Carmel High School. “Especially core strength. Even on the days we don’t practice, I am always out running or working out to continue to build my strength and endurance.”

Grey, 15, a natural on the high bar according to his coach, said putting in the time and effort will foster success.

“Anyone can do gymnastics. You have to really go for it and do what it takes,” said Grey, a freshman at Zionsville Community High School. “When you start competing, you have to go to every practice and put in the hours. When you do that you’ll always be getting better and improving.”

Despite their different abilities, the gymnasts share something in common—-a passion for their sport.

Each day after school, the boys can be found at the Interactive Academy gym in Zionsville, fine-tuning their techniques and refining their skills.

“We practice four hours a day, five days a week,” Mansberger said.

Despite the grueling training schedule, Lock, Grey, and Mansberger all say that gymnastics gives them a sense of accomplishment, especially while mastering difficult moves.

“The adrenaline rush while learning new skills is my favorite part,” Grey said.

They have dedicated countless hours training and have traveled to competitions across the U.S.

“We went to a competition this year called The Great Western in Chicago, and I won first place All-Around. The winner received a cowboy hat and a banner,” Lock said.

The team, known as Interactive Academy’s junior Olympic team, is coached by Craig Christie, who has been training the young athletes since they were 5 years old.

“Aaronson, Landry, and Eli all put in many years of focused hard work to get where they are now,” Christie said. “When given an instruction, they all do and attempt to understand what is being said, and they attempt to physically perform that instruction to the best of their ability.”

Christie has been instrumental in the boys success. A former gymnast, Christie has been coaching at the Interactive Academy for more than a decade and has a reputation for producing top-level gymnasts.

“In a nutshell, anyone who is willing to put in the quality hours needed in the gym can achieve success in this sport,” he said. “No amount of talent can replace a long-term commitment built on a solid work ethic and determination.”

“My next goal is to represent my college team when I graduate from Zionsville Community High School,” Grey said.

“I want to go to Stanford College and compete on their gymnastics team,” Lock said. “Maybe even go to the Olympics one day, that would be really cool.”

“When I graduate Carmel High School, I want to continue gymnastics in whatever college I decide to go to,” Mansberger said.

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The Interactive Academy boys junior Olympic gymnastics team (Photo courtesy of Interactive Academy/Chad Grey)

Most recent highlights for Eli, Landry, and Aaronson

Eli Lock

  • 5th grader at Zionsville West Middle School.
  • Competes as a 12-year-old in Level 8
  • Began gymnastics at Interactive Academy just after he turned 6 years old under Craig Christie
  • 3-time 1st place All-Around at Indiana State Championships (2023-Level 8, 2022-Level 6, 2021-Level 6)
  • 2-time 3rd place All-Around at Region 5 Championships (2022-Level 6, 2021-Level 6)
  • 2-time Future Stars National Development Team (2022, 2021)

Landry Grey

  • 9th grader at Zionsville Community High School
  • Competes as a 15-year-old in Level 9
  • Began gymnastics at Interactive Academy at age 5 under Gene Watson, Craig Christie, and Mike Morris
  • 3-time 1st place All-Around at Indiana State Championships (2023-Level 9, 2021-Level 8, 2016-Level 5)
  • 4-time Indiana State Championship Runner-up (2022, 2019, 2018, 2017)
  • Junior National Championships Qualifier 2021, 2022 (Level 9 Age 13 4th All Around)
  • Future Stars National Qualifier 2018

Aaronson Mansberger

  • 11th grader at Carmel High School
  • Competes as a 17-year-old in Level 10
  • Began gymnastics at Indy School of Gymnastics under Gene Watson / Craig Christie at age 4 and followed the coaches to Interactive Academy
  • 3-time USA Gymnastics Men’s Academic All-American Award
  • 2022 recipient of the Gene Watson Award
  • 1st-place All-Around Indiana State Championships (2023-Level 10, 2022-Level10)
  • 2022 Pommel Horse Champion – Level 10 Region 5 Championships
  • 2022 Pommel Horse National Champion – Level 10 Age 16 Development Nationals