Olivia Rodenhaver ’26 makes time for competitive gymnastics — and sticks the landing
Gymnastics is a uniquely individual sport, as even those on a team compete alone in every event. This solitary element requires a level of mental and emotional focus and commitment that is unlike nearly any other endeavor. This, coupled with the physical strength and training needed, make gymnastics extremely challenging. For Olivia Rodenhaver ’26, it is a challenge she loves.
Rodenhaver has been a gymnast since she was two, and has competed since the age of six. She trains five to six days per week, four to five hours per day — making physical and social sacrifices and pushing her body to its limits in every event. Her time must be carefully structured, and she puts a premium on recovery and nutrition. It is a balancing act unlike many others, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Her results from this past season, with competitions throughout the East Coast, included being undefeated on floor exercise (9.9 is her highest score), placing first in all events at Greensboro Invitational in February and winning the all-around championship for her age, placing 2nd in the all-around at the state meet, where she won the floor exercise and was 2nd on vault). Floor exercise is a favorite followed by the vault. She is a “power gymnast” who keys on strength. She cites the bars as the most challenging alongside the beam.
Says Rodenhaver, “The reward you get when you finally get the one skill you’ve been working on for months and having it pay off when you compete it in a meet is unlike any other feeling.”
In addition to gymnastics, swimming was also a part of Rodenhaver’s early athletic pursuits, and she comes from a family of athletes. Her father, Dan, swam at Lehigh University, and her mother, Caroline, was a competitive gymnast until an injury shortened her career. Her younger brother, Colton, plays lacrosse and runs track. Olivia also enjoyed swimming but not in the same way she loved gymnastics.
Rodenhaver credits her parents with being incredibly supportive of her goals and pursuits. “My parents do so much for me and for my brother in terms of our travel for sports and our practices. They understand how much it means to us, and they help me stay balanced,” she says.
From Dan and Caroline’s perspective, they are grateful that their daughter has found something she loves so much. “She has always loved to do it and it isn’t work for her,” says Caroline. “Even with pain and soreness from training, she wants to keep going and she puts in the time to rejuvenate her body so she can keep going.” Dan adds, “As parents, we are making sure she is well-rounded and keeping perspective and managing her time and giving her short-term goals.” Both parents emphasize long-term thinking and planning in addition to gymnastics goals.
Olivia credits her parents with helping her when she is working through a challenging skill and says they are both good listeners. They both understand the importance of processing as an element of training. “As parents, we allow her space to process her performance and not to direct her emotions or reactions,” says Caroline. Dan adds, “Olivia is a ‘slow burn’ in terms of verbalizing emotions, so we make sure she has time to talk when she needs it and space when she needs it.” For her part, Olivia recognizes this and appreciates being able to just get in the car sometimes and have quiet.
The challenges of her sport, she says, only strengthen her resolve and determination, and these skills have translated to facing challenges in other areas like academics. “I enjoy pushing myself in school and am excited to pursue the IB Diploma Programme. I became good at time management at a young age and have improved as I have gotten older. I have a checklist by my bed at home of reminders and use the website Notion to write down all assignments on my laptop. I check my tasks list multiple times per day and make a habit to check my email daily.”
The sacrifices are a reality, and her commitment to training means making choices at times that can be difficult. “Occasionally I feel like I am missing out on school or social activities which can be hard but it is ultimately worth it for the payoff,” Olivia says. She credits Trinity’s rotational schedule and study hall and Discovery Period time as major helps in managing her workload and allowing for time with friends. It also allows her to be involved in clubs like FOCUS and Book Club and to participate in community service opportunities during Discovery. She is excited about pursuing IB, and she really hopes to participate in a Global Engagement trip before graduating.
Her parents say Trinity has allowed her to grow by challenging her. Says Caroline, “Her experience has been different at times than anticipated but we wouldn’t change it and she has enjoyed the challenges and twists.” Adds Dan, “We like the avenues to explore things beyond gymnastics, and that the school promotes becoming involved in the community and being a part of something bigger than yourself. She has been pushed academically and has access to faculty who want to help her. We appreciate that she is encouraged to develop relationships with teachers and adults and is rewarded for asking questions and making connections.”
For now, though, Olivia is focused on following her gymnastics dreams to the next level, with hopes of competing in college. Given her proclivity for embracing challenges and her love for the payoff of hard work and dedication, the future looks bright and the possibilities vast inside and outside of the gym for this acrobatic Titan.