CHATHAM, NJ - Ethan Schwinghammer has gone through all the mental gymnastics and challenges the virus has forced upon everyone during the pandemic.
It was hard for the Chatham High gymnast to take mentally when his goal of reaching the nationals was snuffed out last spring before it even had a chance to begin.
"I was disappointed last year," Schwinghammer said. "I probably would have made it to nationals last year, but it got canceled. The last meet I competed in was at the end of February (2020) and a few days before it was about to start, states and regionals got canceled.
"There has been uncertainty about everything. They just scheduled the Senior Prom."
There is one thing for certain in Schwinghammer's world now, however, since he has achieved one of his longtime goals of qualifying for the United States Junior Gymnastic Nationals scheduled for early May.
Schwinghammer, who competes out of the Indigo Gymnastics in New Providence, recently qualified for his all-around performance at the USAG Region 7 gymnastics tournament in Pennsylvania.
Ethan Schwinghammer is the Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week.
Schwinghammer will be competing at level 10 - the highest boys level - at the nationals in the floor exercise, parallel bars, pommel horse, still rings, vault, high bar and all-around.
It's been a long road for him to get back to this point. Gymnastics training was shut down for four months because of the pandemic. And another obstacle arrived in November when he was quarantined for the entire month because the virus spread through his family.
"First it was my mom, then my dad, and then on the last day of the quarantine, I got it," he said. "Then my coach got it."
Schwinghammer has been competing in gymnastics for 11 years, ever since he got the bug at the age of six while attending a birthday party at Diamond Gymnastics. He's in the gym training four hours a day, six days a week.
"I'm the oldest one on the team now and the motivation was hard to come by," the 17-year-old said. "I told everyone to keep pushing. It helped that the club brought in two judges so we could have a home meet in February.
"Our regular meets in February got pushed back to March and we had one in-person meet before regionals. Once I heard nationals was going to happen, it instantly became a goal."
Nationals is the last piece missing from Schwinghammer's impressive gymnastics resume. Under the guidance of coach Will Castellanos, he was a level 9 state and regional all-around champion in 2019. He's been an Academic All-America for four straight years.
The Nationals will represent the culmination of his years of training six days a week since he'll likely only compete at the club level when he attends Purdue University in the fall. The 5-10, 145-pound student-athlete loves planes and intends to study Aeronautical Engineering at Purdue.
He considers his best event the pommel horse, but his goal is to close out his career with his best performances in every event.
"Everything I take away from gymnastics is great," he said. "It's not like baseball, where you can go out and throw it. I don't have a pommel at home or a high bar in my backyard. That's why you do the routines over and over in practice.
"I just want to do the routines the best I can at nationals. My coach tells me to do my routines and the scores will come. I just need to clean everything up."
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