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Madden performs, coaches others to be light on their feet

Rylee Madden, Ottawa High School senior, coaches young gymnasts at Illinois Valley Gymnastics Academy in Ottawa. Rylee is in her third year as a coach, where she herself trained part of the time.
Rylee Madden, Ottawa High School senior, coaches young gymnasts at Illinois Valley Gymnastics Academy in Ottawa. Rylee is in her third year as a coach, where she herself trained part of the time.

You can't keep Rylee Madden down.

From the time she was 5 years old, Rylee has been practicing gymnastics. She went on to compete for five years, beginning at age 8, traveling around Illinois, St. Louis and Wisconsin.

"I did all four elements: vault, bars, beam, floor," she said. "I think gymnastics definitely gave me the determination I have today. You learn after you fell you had to get up again or you have to try again if something doesn't go the way you want it to."

The Ottawa High School senior said her favorite element was the floor routine.

"It's more dancing and you can kind of show off your personality more, plus there's music with it too," she said.

In competition, Rylee made it to Level 7, which is higher than the compulsory levels where everyone knows the same routines.

"With Level 7 it is optional where you create your own routines and obviously got more difficult," she said. "And then every year I competed I made it to state. I think it taught me about time management at the end of it when I was in Level 7 I was in gym about 21 hours a week. I was also in Shepherd poms and had school work so with all of that it was hard to balance, but I made it work."

Today, Rylee is in her third year as a coach at Illinois Valley Gymnastics Academy in Ottawa, where she herself trained part of the time.

"I think after I left I missed the sport," she said. "I wanted to give kids what I had knowing what gymnastics did for me."

She used to teach competitive classes, but now teaches recreational classes and one introduction to competitive class. Her students are 6 to 12 years old.

"I make them work hard, because I know you need to work hard if you want to progress, but I think we have a lot of fun with it too.," she said. "My favorite part is when I watch their face and they get excited about something they've been working on for a long time or for two years. They just get really excited about it."

Rylee says she expects more from the older students.

"I definitely encourage them to be their best selves whether it's outside the gym or trying that new skill," she said.

Rylee's other loves on the floor are the Pomettes and dancing. She's unsure if she is going to continue to coach gymnastics in college, but she says she would like to continue dancing in college. She's been taking ballet and jazz classes for six years.

"I've been dancing on and off during gymnastics consecutively since seventh grade," she said. "You have to take ballet. I like jazz a lot better. I have an appreciation for ballet. It makes me work harder. There are different styles of jazz, so you can have a really hard-hitting one or a smoother one. Without ballet and the technique you wouldn't be able to do all that."

As for poms, which she performs at school games, Rylee credits that with giving her more self confidence.

"I think it's made me come out of my shell more," she said. "In general i don't think of myself as this outgoing person but when we perform, I definitely get more confident."

As for the future, Rylee plans to attend Purdue University in Indiana and enter its first year engineering programs with plans to major in biomedical engineering.

"I've always really been interested in math and science, and I think this particular major combines what I like from both of those things," she said. "I think it's interesting to figure out how stuff works especially in math to figure things out and to find the thing you're looking for and science applies to your life everyday to all around us."

In addition to gymnastics, dance and poms, Rylee has been a peer mentor for three years; the chief editor of the yearbook for three years; the president of Rotary Interact and Student Council; and the president of National Honor Society.

"Rylee has extremely high expectations for herself," said Lisa Kerestes, NHS adviser. "She works hard to achieve all of her accomplishments. All of her responsibilities are performed to the best of her ability.

"Her ability to balance her course load and extra-curricular activities is extraordinary," Kerestes continued. "Despite her demanding schedule, she always has time to help others and always has a smile on her face. She is highly respected by her peers for her work ethic, intelligence, and character."

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