A St. Vincent de Paul student receiving an academic scholarship is not unusual. It is practically a rite of passage for students at one of the most prestigious academic schools in the North Bay.

Receiving an athletic scholarship is not as common, and winning a scholarship in for acrobatics and tumbling is rare.

And “earn” is exactly what led gymnast Jenna Mankowski to receive a scholarship to compete for the acrobatic and tumbling team at West Liberty University in West Virginia.

Acrobatics and tumbling is a relative new college sport, and colleges are beginning to recruit more high school gymnasts for their teams.

West Liberty is a public university that was established in 1837, 26 years before West Virginia became a state, making it the oldest institution of higher education in West Virginia.

“I had offers from a lot of different schools and I visited them all,” Mankowski said. “I loved the West Liberty coaches and the school. I also liked that, although it is a D2 school, I would compete against some D1 schools.”

She said she was especially impressed with the school’s state-of-the-art training facilities and athlete-support staff.

Gymnastics has been practically a life-long avocation for Mankowski. She started working on her gymnastic career before her first birthday, and she began formal training at age 3 at Redwood Empire Gymnastics.

“When I was little, I loved flipping over. It was really fun,” she said.

Now a senior at St. Vincent de Paul High School, Mankowski has never changed her mind. If anything, 14 years of hard work and training has only strengthened her dedication.

“I practice all the time. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work, but I love it,” she said.

Her college decision was helped by West Liberty’s reputation for being a quality business school, which fits right in with her plans to be a marketing major.

The St. Vincent senior is the daughter of Steve and Kathleen Mankowski. She has a 9-year-old younger sister, Elena.