Twenty-five hours a week at the gym, and meets during the competition season, which runs from December until May. This is the life of 17-year-old gymnast Yasmine Yektaparast, who will be a senior at St. Vincent High School this coming fall.

“It all started when my friend was having a birthday party at the gym, and I fell in love with the sport. I was only three years old,” says Yektaparast.

That’s 14 years and countless hours committed to the same sport, yet Yektaparast still feels a sense of accomplishment whenever nailing a new skill.

“Some skills are much harder than others, but once you achieve them, you feel so good,” says Yektaparast. “It definitely teaches you to get through he tough things because it’s such a crazy difficult sport.”

While training the body to flip and twist in the manners that competitive gymnastics require definitely calls for physical skill and strength.

The most challenging aspect of gymnastics may not be what one would expect. “The greatest challenge isn’t physical, it’s mental,”

says. “You have to tell yourself to flip on a beam four inches thick. You flip all over the place: backwards, forwards, sideways. The greatest challenge is mentally getting over those things.”

Recruitment for college is routine for most serious high school athletes. For Yektaparast, that long and difficult process has just come to a close.

“I committed to UC Davis last week. I’ve been a part of the recruiting process since the eighth grade, and Davis has been my top school since the first time I did an unofficial visit with the coach there,” says Yektaparast. “I’ve been contacting coaches from a bunch of different schools, but Davis has always been my No. 1.”

The 17-year-old gymnast’s mother, Yvette Yektaparast, feels that with her daughter’s recent commitment to Davis, their journey with gymnastics has come full circle.

“She has had such a passion for this sport since such a young age, and has been able to fulfill all the goals that she has set for herself,” said the mother. “She worked very hard for this, and she earned it.”

But not so fast – Yektaparast still has a full year of high school left before she heads off to college. During the school year, practice runs from 4:45 to 8:45 p.m. Add on an hour to practice and an hour home, and not much time is left for homework.

“It’s hard to balance sports and school, but I somehow make it work. I usually do my homework in the car, and when I get home I have to stay up and finish,” says the athlete. “I don’t have much free time, but when I do, I like to hang out with my friends. I also like to bake and other random things,”

“Looking back, she has no regrets about missing out on school or social things,” adds her mother. “Her friends scheduled around her practice so she could participate, and her teachers at her high school were very supportive.”