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Graduation 2014

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Ardrey Kell gymnast sticks with sport into college

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/14/00/02/BOMgL.Em.138.jpeg|473
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    Ardrey Kell’s Jack Kramer will attend the University of Minnesota with a variety of scholarships, including an athletic award in gymnastics.
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    STEVE LYTTLE - slyttle@charlotteobserver.com
    Jack Kramer says the University of Minnesota also is a good place to pursue a degree in chemical engineering.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/14/00/02/jEmp.Em.138.jpeg|480
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    Jack Kramer

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  • About this series

    The Observer asked readers and school leaders for suggestions of standout graduates. Today, we continue a series of stories about students who illustrate a range of accomplishments, including some who overcame significant obstacles.



Sixth in a series

Jack Kramer is a daredevil.

“I like to take a chance,” he says. “Sometimes it doesn’t work the first time, but eventually it does.”

That sense of adventure took Kramer into gymnastics. It allowed him to try risky routines that helped carry him to three consecutive state gymnastics championships.

And now it is taking Kramer, 18, who will graduate Saturday from Ardrey Kell High School, to college at the University of Minnesota.

“Going to school up there will be quite a change,” Kramer says, “but I enjoy trying something different.”

Kramer will attend with a variety of scholarships, including an athletic award in gymnastics. He says Minnesota is also a good place to pursue a degree in chemical engineering.

A back injury in his junior year of high school cooled the interest from some of the collegiate gymnastics giants, but Kramer found several other schools still enthusiastic about him. The Air Force Academy recruited him, but asthma knocked him out of contention.

“I wasn’t even thinking about Minnesota,” he says. But a friend he met at the USA Gymnastics Nationals steered him toward the school. Kramer visited and was hooked. “It’s perfect for me,” he says.

Kramer says he realizes gymnastics is not popular among males his age. “I’ve had friends who might say, ‘Jack is weird – he does gymnastics.’ But then they see me at the gym, and they understand. Gymnastics keeps you in good shape.”

His mom, Cathy Kramer, says male gymnasts need the self-confidence to stick with the sport.

“At one point, some of Jack’s friends stopped wearing their gymnastics shirts,” she said. “Jack never cared about that.”

Jack Kramer, who took several Advanced Placement courses and rates science and math as his favorites, says he doesn’t hide from a challenge.

“I like the high-flying stuff,” he says of his gymnastics routines. When asked whether he’s fallen during practice or in meets, Kramer smiles and nods affirmatively. “But I try again,” he adds.

“He’s a daredevil; he’s fearless,” his mother says. “But he’s also smart about it. He always has a plan.”

For now, that plan includes making friends with his gymnastics teammates and competing in the sport he enjoys.

“I know winter will be tough,” he says. “But the guys up there said that once you get through the first winter, it gets easier. So we’ll see how it goes.”

“Anyways,” Kramer adds, “I like a challenge.”

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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