Hard work pays off: GJ’s Tessa Kester focused on finishing well at national event

Tessa Kester practices on the uneven bars at KidzPlex.



KidzPlex gymnast Tessa Kester performs recently on the floor at the KidzPlex gym. The 17-year-old Grand Junction High School junior has qualified for the United States Association of Gymnastics Level 9 Western Nationals for the second consecutive year. Kester will perform May 8 in San Diego.



Tessa Kester is excited about a return trip to nationals after an eye-opening experience last year. “It’s always good to know what you’re going up against,” Kester said.



Tessa Kester could spend all day running and jumping around on gymnastics equipment.

“I would stay an hour after practice, just going and going,” Kester said. “I’d have to be kicked out of the gym, and still do.”

That energy and commitment has served her well.

The 17-year-old KidzPlex gymnast qualified for the United States Association of Gymnastics Level 9 Western Nationals for the second consecutive year. The event is May 8 in San Diego.

“She’s an amazing person as well as a gymnast,” KidzPlex coach Brian Bensley said. “She’s been a leader in here. She has a positive attitude and influence on the rest of the team. Even when she gets frustrated, she’s still smiling.

“She really isn’t genetically what you would say is a gymnast, but she works so hard and has such a good work ethic. She has come an amazing ways in gymnastics.”

The Grand Junction High School junior placed sixth all-around (fourth on bars and fifth on floor) at the regional championships a week ago in Dallas. The top 12 placers from an eight-state region qualified for nationals.

“It’s always good to know what you’re going up against,” Kester said. “Last year was an eye-opener.

“This year, I’ve been really improving. I’ll be more nervous. I’ll have a shot at competing well and doing well, so I’ll probably be a little more nervous.”

Her favorite — and best — events are bars and floor exercise.

“On floor, you can have fun, go out, dance and show them what you can do,” Kester said. “It’s a powerful event. It’s a strong event.”

“Her personality shines through on floor,” Bensley said.

“On bars, you can swing, be tight and strong and look pretty,” Kester said.

Like most gymnasts, Kester has persevered through injuries.

She’s broken a foot, a toe and had a stress fracture in her back.

She has to do more back exercises and keep her core muscles (abdominals) strong, but it’s worth it.

The 5-foot-7 bundle of energy has a little more height than most gymnasts, but is graceful with her long legs.

Kester hopes to compete in college gymnastics and has attended camps at Southern Utah University. Former KidzPlex gymnast Lindsey Schultz competed in gymnastics at SUU.

“Last year, she had to do her best just to make (nationals),” Bensley said. “This year, she’s been at the top in all of her meets and has a good shot at (placing in the top three).”

The 4.0 student won the Level 7 all-around state championship and the Level 8 regional title on bars.

“We’ve been looking at all the other scores from the other regions,” Kester said. “We’ve been putting together what scores I need to get to place. It would be amazing to place on anything. That would make me happy.

“The highest scores are possible. If I hit my best routines, I think I can place pretty high.”


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