Erica Ralph had been a competitive gymnast for nearly 10 years when a knee injury forced her to give up the sport that she was passionate about. But Erica didn't let her drive and determination go to waste; she put her energy to good use.
"After I quit, I didn't have all that time spent in the gym - five days a week, four hours a day," said Erica, the 17-year-old daughter of Ron and Darlene Ralph, of Martinez. "I got pretty bored with all that time on my hands."
Erica found that she could put the time and effort that she used to put into gymnastics into other sports - soccer and cheerleading. Additionally, she began working extra hard with the student council, of which she was class president. Those efforts have paid off, with Erica now being a member of the Evans High Knights varsity girls' soccer and varsity basketball cheerleading teams. She also will be on the school's competitive cheerleading team.
"I thought I'd put my tumbling to good use," said the senior at Evans High who has served as her class' student council president for the past four years. "I didn't let my knee injury stop me; I just decided to try new things from it."
Dennis Hayden, the owner of Haydens International Gymnastics, where Erica was a student and now is a recreational gymnastics and summer day camp instructor, said Erica has an "intrinsic motivation" to make the best of everything.
"She is a great example of what the discipline of a sport can do for a person," Hayden said. "She had accomplished a great deal in gymnastics, so that's why the fall was so hard on her."
Hayden said the discipline Erica learned as a competitive gymnast has had a direct effect on her "determination and drive in other areas of her life. She continues to set goals for herself, and the bar is set much higher for her than most."
Erica is active in her church - St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church - and a member of numerous school clubs - National Honor Society, BETA club, prom committee, renaissance committee and discipleship and young life. She also is a member of the Columbia County School Superintendent's Student Advisory Committee and has served on the county's gifted review committee.
"There is life after gymnastics," Hayden said. "That's what Erica has proven, and she's proven to be very successful in her endeavors."
Erica hopes to have a career in orthopedics and to help others as she's been helped.
"I always wanted to be a doctor, and when this happened, I really got to talk to the doctors and learn more about what they do," she said. "I really want to go into orthopedics."
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