Young Gymnast on the Beam

"She really loves the sport; she wants to perfect her skills.”
Five years into her gymnastics career, Brooke Wittmer, who’s 11 now, has scaled most of the rungs on Gym Nation’s ladder.

It’s been about 25 years since East Hampton High School last had a gymnastics team, so the Wittmers, of Springs, have had to go it alone when it comes to their talented daughter, Brooke, who trains at Gym Nation in Riverhead.

Asked during a recent conversation how her daughter, who’s 11, had come to embrace the sport, Joann Wittmer said, “She was bouncing off the walls — that kind of gave us the idea. She needed an outlet. She was jumping off the furniture and the bed . . . leaving fingerprints on the walls.”

Initially, at the age of 6, Brooke went to a gym class at the Southampton Recreation Center, “but quickly outgrew it.” On then to Gym Nation, where she has been for the past four years, having scaled the ladder from level Copper (which she skipped) to Bronze to Silver to Gold, with Platinum and Premier to go.

Recently, Brooke, who’s twice been to national tournaments in Florida and California, won all four events in which she was entered — vault, balance beam, uneven parallel bars, and floor exercise — in a tournament in Bermuda.

“I drive a lot,” her mother said when asked how many trips a week they made to Gym Nation, “though there’s one other from East Hampton who goes and a few from Sag Harbor.” 

Asked if she always won, Brooke, who, with her arms folded, was, by and large, content to let her mother do the talking, laughed. She needn’t have answered — the shelves in the Wittmers’ living room are filled with her trophies.

It was a little soon, her mother said, in answer to another question, to talk about the Olympics. “You have to be 16 now. . . . She really loves the sport; she wants to perfect her skills.”

It goes without saying, given all the traveling to practices and to far-flung tournaments — at one in Palm Springs last June she qualified for the finals in the floor exercise and vault — that she’s organized.

Asked if she ever fell off the beam, Brooke, who’s 4 feet 2 inches tall, and whose favorite event, she said, was the vault, replied, with a smile, “I do!”

Whereupon she got up, dragged out a low practice beam, and began an impressive routine with a back handstand.