It’s only been a year since Taylor started her first gymnastics class at the Cobb Gymnastics Center and she’s already earning top scores in competitions such as the Turkey Tumble and the Cobb Kick Off Invitational, among others. She placed first in the Turkey Tumble on Nov. 9.
Taylor’s mother, Kimberly Carroll-Hawkins, said her daughter took to the sport immediately.
“Gymnastics was far more than fun for her,” said Carroll-Hawkins, the chief deputy clerk of Cobb Superior Court. “She had a genuine passion for it. We had a couple of meets and Taylor was doing well, but she had yearning for perfection that wasn’t quite fulfilled.”
Taylor lives with her mother and father, Terrence Hawkins, in Marietta. She has two brothers, 20-year-old Tracy McClinton and 15-year-old Kahlial Hawkins.
The young athlete attends Carter’s Gym in Kennesaw and practices about 16 hours a week with private lessons on top of regular practice, Carroll-Hawkins said. She practices with a team of 16 girls at the gym.
“We reached out to her coach from the summer, Mercedez Toles at Carter’s Gymnastics, for private lessons on top of her regular practice. However, coach Mercedez said “... I honestly think she has what it takes to be the best in the state,” said Carroll-Hawkins, who graduated from Marietta High.
Gymnastics competitions for young athletes typically consist of bar exercises, floor exercises, beams and vaults. Carroll-Hawkins said judges score competitors based on their pose, alignment of their bodies, their timed performance and their interaction with the judges among other criteria.
Taylor was elated when she learned she won the top scores.
“I felt really excited,” said Taylor, who loves the TV shows “Zoe 101,” “Victorious” and “Shake It Up.” “I like winning medals.”
Carroll-Hawkins said her daughter’s favorite exercises are the floor and the bars. Taylor said she also likes doing splits.
Since winning the Georgia USA Gymnastics State Championship, Carroll-Hawkins and her husband have been thinking about placing Taylor in the Olympics program.
“We’re still on the fence about it because she’s so young,” Carroll-Hawkins said.
Training for the Olympics program requires many more dedicated hours of practice.
“Eventually, we would have to consider homeschooling her (if Taylor entered the program),” Carroll-Hawkins said, “because they practice in the morning and they practice late at night. Being that Taylor is in a public school system, she’s not able to do that right now.”
But the young athlete has no plans to stop doing what she loves. Her mother said she can see her daughter having a career in gymnastics.
“She never wants to stop,” Carroll-Hawkins said. “She doesn’t want to leave the gym. When she’s there, she’s always the last one to leave because she wants to keep working.”
Taylor’s mother said watching her daughter grow as a gymnast and shine on the mat has been a rewarding experience. Taylor plans to participate in more competitions.
“Being on the podium was not enough for her. She wanted to be at the top of the podium,” Carroll-Hawkins said. “I’ve never seen my child happier than when she had a medal around her neck on the podium.”