High school freshman Maggie O’Hara doesn’t live the life of most girls her age. A resident of Lexington, S.C., O’Hara makes the 200-mile round-trip to Weddington six days a week to train at Southeastern Gymnastics – an often-overlooked gym nestled in the Weddington Activity Center off Providence Road.
After the two-hour drive, she practices with her teammates for four hours before heading home. It’s that kind of dedication that’s made her a Level 10 gymnast and the first high school freshman to receive a gymnastics scholarship offer from the University of Michigan.
As impressive as O’Hara’s story is, it isn’t that uncommon for the gymnasts at Southeastern. The gym has produced 15 athletes in the last two years that have received full gymnastics scholarships to universities that include UCLA, Pittsburgh, N.C. State, Brown and Denver and currently boasts 24 Level 10 gymnasts in the program – the highest in the country.
The stable of current gymnasts honing their skills at Southeastern include girls like Parkwood’s Julianna Cannamela (LSU), Weddington’s Krista Collins (Pittsburgh) and Claire Kern (Denver), Charlotte Latin’s Megan McClelland (Maryland), Cuthbertson’s Nicole Wild (N.C. State), Covenant Day’s Melissa Brooker (N.C. State) and Butler’s Dianna Chesnok.
With that kind of talent, it’s no wonder the club was recently named the National Club of the Year by USA Gymnastics – and head coach Luidmila Shobe has the credentials to back up the acclaim. She’s a former Soviet National Team coach who trained three-time Olympian Svetlana Boguinskaia. She’s been at Southeastern for a decade and since been named the N.C. Coach of the Year (2007), Regional 8 Coach of the Year (2010), Region 8 Club of the Year (2012) and has been inducted into the Region 8 Gymnastics Hall of Fame, which spans North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Florida.
Another pair of Southeastern standouts–sisters Grace and Anna Glenn, who are both also Level 10 gymnasts– just finished their sophomore year at South Meck and already have full scholarships to UCLA under Shobe’s watch. Grace recently won the all-around gold with a score of 38.675 in the Junior D division at the 2014 Women’s Junior Olympic National Championships, the culminating event of the competitive season. Both Anna and Grace became the first Southeastern gymnasts to qualify for the Nastia Liukin Cup.
Shobe’s professionalism and credentials, and the talent and dedication of Southeastern gymnasts like O’Hara and the Glenns, have made the gym the best in the country.
“I think everyone in the country knows who Southeastern is now,” said Margaret McAvoy, a Level 10 gymnast committed to Brown. “Being able to take that name to college with you is an honor. It’s made me proud and we can go to college with the confidence knowing that we come from something great.”
“We’re a very unique gym,” Grace Glenn said. “We have a lot of Level 10 girls and we’re all by each others’ side every day helping each other pursue our dreams.”
Despite the dedication and time commitment, the athletes at Southeastern and coach Shobe make sure they have time for a social life.
“It’s definitely a lot to sacrifice,” said Kensleigh Owens, who’s committed to Pittsburgh and drives from Huntersville every day to train at Southeastern. “You sacrifice sleep, friends, school sports because it’s complete dedication. But we do it because we love it. We want it and these girls have become my family.”
“These girls grow up together here,” Shobe said. “Some of them have been training together since they were 2. But we’re not just about gymnastics. They go to prom, they go to concerts. I’m proud of them because there are a lot of gyms where you have to be homeschooled in order to go to practice for six hours and you don’t have vacation.
“It’s never been a goal to become Gym of the Year or be on top. We do what we do because we enjoy it. It’s a hard job and it’s dedication but we enjoy each other. It makes me proud as a coach because it’s possible to be dedicated, work hard, achieve something but also have fun.”