Payne Off to Nationals

Tallahassee, FL - In a room full of young gymnasts, the oldest one stands out. She's only 13 years old, but Shaquilla Payne attracts the attention of everyone watching.

Payne is heading to the Level 9 Eastern Nationals this week.

"I'm kind of nervous and excited at the same time," she said. "It's really not an emotion. I've done competitions a lot, so I'm kind of ready for it."

International Gold Gymnastics trains about 300 kids each year, but Payne, a Tallahassee native, is the first to reach Nationals. She's been here since the first grade.

"If I worked really hard I thought it would be possible, but sometimes I didn't because I would have bad days," Payne said.

Her three coaches - Alexander Babakhin, Olga Babakhin and Artak Khachaturyan - haven't seen many of those bad days.

"She grow very fast and she a very hard worker and never, never complained about anything," said Alexander Babakhin, who is from Russia. "She a very hard worker."

She'll be showcasing that hard work this week in Landover, Maryland. She expects to do well in the vault and the floor routine. But, most importantly, she hopes to keep her composure.

"There's gonna be a lot of older girls and girls who have probably been there before that I'm up against and I have to try my best to do what I have to do," she said.

And maybe come away with a gold medal.


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