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One of a few Black women from Kentucky lands D1 scholarship in gymnastics

Retoshia Halsell spends more than 20 hours a week training at Champion Gymnastics in east Louisville under the watchful eyes of her coaches and younger teammates.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Retoshia Halsell is reliable. Her GPA at Ballard High School is nearly perfect. She’s an adored part time nanny. And be it beam, bars, floor, or vault, she’s quite savvy at sticking the landing. 

“Sometimes it’s nerve racking,” Halsell said. “Because if I fall, everybody is going to see this.”

What her 18 years may not allow her to see is, her falls – or at least the way she always gets up from her falls – is what makes her the trailblazer she’s come to be.

Just last week, Toshia (as her friends call her) landed a full-ride division one gymnastics scholarship to Towson University in Maryland.

Toshia spends more than 20 hours a week training at Champion Gymnastics in east Louisville under the watchful eyes of her coaches and younger teammates.  

Credit: WHAS11 Staff

“The average person will start going to classes when they’re two or three,” she said. “I didn’t start until I was 9, so I was much later than many other gymnasts.”

Her days are long, often starting at 6 a.m. and ending around 10 p.m. 

“It’s exhausting,” she said. “I talk to my mom a lot because I’m sleep deprived. My body is tired. Mentally, it’s a lot because I practice five days a week for four and a half hours. 

Toshia said she's struggled in the past with not having as much of a social life as some of her friends due to practicing at the gym.

"My friends were out together and was left out because I was here at the gym," she said. "My mom would keep telling me the hard work would pay off.”

She expects to work equally hard once she touches down in Maryland. She said she wants to be a true student-athlete, putting academics first. 

“I’m going to major in biology. I want to become a traveling nurse,” she said. “I have two older sisters and they’re both bio majors. My oldest sister is my pediatrician, which is super cool, and my other sister is in college at Alabama A&M studying biology.”

As she rounds out her last months at the gym she’s called home for years, she’s reflective and thankful for the support.

“Gymnastics isn’t cheap. My family has been everything. I get to do these things because of what they’ve done for me,” she said. “Gymnastics is interesting, but the meets are really long, and then they get boring. So, kudos to my family for sitting through them all just to support me.”

She’s also mindful of the young eyes on her every move, and happy to offer some of the tips that serve her well daily.

“If you truly love gymnastics, stick with it because there have been plenty of times where I’ve been unmotivated because of injuries or just bad days. Just stick with it," Toshia said. "You’re going to have your bad days, but that’s what makes the good days.

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