Most Highland Park High School seniors are focused on their college choice in August, but Jazzy Kerber plans to put her formal education on hold for a year after she graduates in May.
Kerber won the all-around title and clubs championship at the national rhythmic gymnastics competition July 18-23 in Louisville and is focused on training after high school at the Sachs Recreation Center in Deerfield to propel her to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"I'm not done with everything I have to do. I hope to represent America in the Olympic Games. In 2015 we have to qualify for the 2016 Olympics," she said.
Being America's national champion will not be enough for Kerber to become an Olympian, but she can get there by maintaining or improving her world standing — 22nd — in international competition.
The top 24 rhythmic gymnasts at the 2015 world championships qualify for the Olympics, according to coach Natalia Klimouk of Buffalo Grove, who was named coach of the year at the national championships. She was 22nd in 2013.
Kerber was named athlete of the year in international competition based on her efforts during the first half of 2014 and she works daily to improve while inspiring other hopefuls in her Deerfield gym.
During the national competition, Kerber managed to win the clubs event the first day and advance to the all-around finals. She knew her performance needed to get better to win the title.
"I didn't hit (my routines) in the first day of competition," Kerber said. "I knew I had to do a good job on all my events." She did.
Klimouk praises Kerber's work ethic and believes she will make the needed improvements to assure an Olympic berth.
"I'm confident she will do what she has to in practice to get better," Klimouk said. "Jazzy knows what to do in practice. She's our sweetheart. The way she works, she's an example to everyone in the gym."
While her classmates are settling into school, she will be in Kazan, Russia, for the World Cup Sept. 3-6 and in Izmir, Turkey, Sept. 21-29 for the world championships. She will be trying to rise above 22nd while staving off competitors.
"I want to make the finals again," Kerber said of one of her goals for the world championships. "I want to place higher. If I don't (get distracted), if I do my best, it will happen."
Because she has been competing internationally for six years, she has developed a routine with her teachers as well as the ones she has in the gym to not neglect her schoolwork.
"I have to be really good managing my time," Kerber said. "I get my (assignments) from my teachers before I leave. I send them back by email. Missing school is not good, but I've kept up."
"She's always reading a book in the gym," said Klimouk about the time between routines in international competition. "She's a good student, too."
Once her gap year is over, Kerber is considering Stanford University where both her parents graduated. She scored 34 on the ACT. A perfect tally is 36.
Gymnastics has given Kerber the opportunity to travel, and while she doesn't do a lot of sightseeing, one of her favorite cities is Pesaro, Italy.
"I've been there three times now," Kerber said. "It's by the Adriatic Sea. I've been there in early spring. It's an old, little cute place."
As a foreign nation, she likes France the best.
"I like the country, the culture, the language, everything about it," Kerber said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun