By Marlen Garcia
INDIANAPOLIS – Most elite female gymnasts in the U.S. measure their progress periodically by going up against fellow Americans at the national training center near Houston.
That’s where the best of best gather to train every month or six weeks.
Lauren Hernandez and Jazmyn Foberg get ultra-competitive workouts every day in their hometown gym. Both 15, they train together at MG Elite in New Jersey.
They enter this week’s P&G Championships, the national championship meet for USA Gymnastics, as headliners among junior gymnasts. They are less than a year away from moving up to the sport’s senior level, in time to compete for 2016 Olympic berths.
“They work well together as a system. They’re better together than they are separate,” their coach, Maggie Haney, said Wednesday after podium training at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The junior meet will start at 1 p.m. Thursday.
“When one is struggling, the other is there,” Haney said.
They give each other tips, usually on details that seem minor to most of us but matter a lot to judges.
“On beam, she will tell me to turn my hands a certain way to help me stay on beam,” Foberg offered as an example. “I give her tips on how to stay calm during the meet.”
This is the first year they have worked side-by-side daily in the gym, though their friendship goes back five years.
Hernandez took time off last year to recover from knee and wrist injuries. She had right knee surgery for a dislocated kneecap and patellar tendon tear.
“She is the queen of comebacks right now,” Haney said.
Less than three weeks ago, Hernandez won the junior all-around competition at the Secret U.S. Classic. She scored her first 15 on the uneven bars, a mark that would have been put her in the top five among senior-level gymnasts in that event.
“I am extra excited to compete bars knowing that in the last meet I got a 15,” Hernandez said. “I’m going to try to do even better and hopefully score great again.”
In March, Hernandez won junior all-around in an international meet in Jesolo, Italy, setting up a year that so far has been outstanding.
“I was so excited to do all this again because last year I injured my knee and wrist,” Hernandez said. “Competing at the (Secret) Classic was definitely enjoyable again.”
Foberg took a sizable step in her development last season by winning the U.S. junior all-around title at the P&G Championships. At the Secret Classic last month, she won balance beam.
“I could fix a lot of things, tiny little mistakes,” she said of her overall performance. “I’m ready to show it.”
The University of Florida won over Foberg when she visited the school last year. She and Hernandez plan to be there together in 2018, she said.
When Foberg and Hernandez began pushing each other competitively in the gym, their coach wasn’t sure if the friendship would cool. They look over their shoulder a little bit at each other, Haney said. That’s natural.
“They really truly help each other,” Haney said. “I give them a lot of credit because they are really there for each other. One hundred percent.”