Athlete of the week: Alana Embury, Elk River, gymnastics: Leaps and bounds

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Championships seem to follow Alana Embury around. Her splendid athletic ability, and her infectious enthusiasm and positivity, are certainly factors in that kind of team success.

The willowy, jingle-jointed Elk River senior has been a starter on four NWSC champion teams, two each in gymnastics and track, making all-conference each time. Her gymnastics team went unbeaten in conference all three years she competed (the first one she was mostly on JV). Her track teams have been conference and true-team section champs the past two years.

Alana Embury has made all-conference twice in gymnastics, and twice so far in track. (Photo by Bill Jones)

“Just being with the teams that I’ve been on, that’s a big one,” said Embury, asked about personal highlights. “I’ve been with some great people.”

Embury won two relay medals at state track last year and qualified for state gymnastics this year.

She is tall for a gymnast at 5-7 and a reedy 120 pounds, adding elegance and points to her performance.

“She is  really toned, and she is tall, and when she does gymnastics, her lines are just amazing,” said coach Jenn Bartlett, “especially on floor,  when  doing her back tumbling; the height she gets is beautiful. On bars, it’s so fun to see those legs way up in the air on the high bar, when she does the clear hip to handstand, it takes your breath away.”

Embury was all-NWSC in grades 11 and 12, and compiled an impressive list of personal bests including 35.8 all-around, 9.45 on floor, 9.25 on vault, 8.55 on  bars and 9.20 on beam.

Her signature moves include a tsukahara vault, a back “tuck” flip on beam, giant swings on bars, and her front handspring-front layout-front layout pass on floor.

“She works hard and loves to have fun with gymnastics. She is a great leader. She and Leah are a real nice combination,” said the coach, referring to co-captain Leah Perreault.

Embury was a member of Twins Cities Twisters through eighth grade, enduring several nagging injuries (wrist, back, neck). With Elks in ninth grade she missed the season with a pulled hamstring. But her last three years have been, thankfully, injury free. “I became more cautious,” she explains.

Her first Elk gymnastics thrill was competing  at sectionals as a sophomore. That was the year ERZ was scoring up to 152, most in the state, but, as they do every year, had two split for sections. The Rogers portion had won their section and the Elk-Zimmerman portion scored about the same and was nipped by three-tenths by Cambridge-Isanti.

“That was so exciting, and we did really well,” said Embury, who’d been mostly JV that year but placed 12th on beam and 18th all-around.

Her other top memories are the three conference titles and making “state” on floor this year with a fourth-place finish at sectional. “I didn’t want to think about state as a goal, because then I’d be disappointed if I didn’t, but it was definitely on my my mind allseason,” said Embury.

As a trackster, she utilizes her gymnastics skills as a pole-vaulter, earning second- and third-place finishes in the conference the last two years, each with 9-7. He personal best is 10-0 and she’s hoping to break the Elk record of 10-6 this year and qualify for state. She’s also a valuable relay runner, leading off the 4-by-200 team that placed fourth at stae last year and the 4-by-100 team that placed sixth.

“Alana is one of the best natural athletes on our team … which is saying a lot,” said coach Russ Gnan, noting that she’s grown from a 5-1 half-miler in ninth grade to a much taller sprinter.

Embury says she’s done her last back flip and giant swing but she’s hoping to make the track team at Loyola University of Chicago, where she’ll major in science.

THE EMBURY SCORECARD

Personal file – Age: 17 … Family: parents Todd and Teresa; sister Erica, 20; brother Garrett, 16 … Sports: gymnastics, track … Other activities: National Honor Society … Academics: 3.7 GPA … College plans: Loyola of Chicago, science major, maybe track

Favorite stuff – Class: anything science … Movie: “Bridesmaids” … Music:  “I listen to anything. One band I like is ‘Train’ “ … Reading: loves books, especially “Hunger Games” and “Pride and Prejudice” … Food: practically anything, especially steak and baked potatoes … Drink:  “Just water.” … Kickback: “I actually do knit. I’ve been working on a scarf for a couple years.” … Place she’d like to visit: Switzerland and the Alps

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