By Liz Kirchner
EHS – Lauren Pipes, 18, a senior at Clyde A. Erwin High School, has signed with Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, NC, the first person from Western North Carolina to win an acrobatics scholarship to the school.
Inspired by her family and by the young gymnasts she trains, she intends to pursue a career in pediatrics.
Pipes teaches and trains at Olympic Start Elite Gymnastic Academy (OSEGA) Gym in Fletcher and she had no real plans to join the college team, but signed with other Erwin athletes last month.
An elite athlete who, throughout high school, trained for 40 hours a week, Pipes began gymnastics when she was eight, relatively late in life for a person destined to reach the Olympic level.
“I want to tell young athletes that it’s never too late to start dreaming,” she said in a recent text.
As a girl, Pipes went to the Little Gym in Asheville, where kids tumbled and played for an hour a day.
“She learned everything she could until she couldn’t learn anymore. Then she moved to OSEGA,” remembers her mother, Shirley Pipes, who added that she and her husband had no idea how to help their daughter become an elite gymnast.
“She is definitely self-motivated. I was never a parent who pushed her to go to the Olympic level. I just wanted her to be physically fit. Healthy. When we moved to OSEGA and [OSEGA owners and Olympic trainers], Miles and Monica Avery helped culture her through. It was very healthy,” said Mrs. Pipes.
As you go up in level, training 40 hours a week, it’s hard to stay in high school for athletes, but she really wanted to, her mother said. “She wasn’t sure about college, but this year, she contacted the coach at Belmont Abbey. She went and tried out and they gave her a scholarship – academic and acrobatic. I am elated,” she said.
Now, one of the top 10 in her high school graduating class, Lauren’s always been interested in medicine, said her mother, who is a nurse in Leicester.
A busy schedule has meant that, for years, school has been followed by hours at the gym, jobs to pay for them and getting home late. Paying for her own classes and persevering, the 18-year-old works at Asheville Gymnastics and Blaze Pizza, displaying patience the hard work of being an athlete.
“Growth can be slow and may not even be visible to other people. But growth is not always about what one sees, but what one feels,” she said.
Among her jobs, Pipes teaches young acrobats at OSEGA. Her team, many of whom have physical challenges, have inspired Pipes to pursue pediatrics.
“She always knew she’d do something in medicine,” said her mom, “so when she started teaching, she was flexible and able to take a step back and realize she wanted to go into pediatrics.” her mother said. “She’ll do biology and then try to go on to Brody School of Medicine [at East Carolina University].”
Cassie Drew, Acro Team Director at OSEGA and owner of Inspire Studio in Asheville, reached in her car as she was traveling with the team to an acrobatic competition in Virginia, said that Lauren at 15 began with Inspire practicing aerial acrobatics, studying the elegantly rigorous silks performance made famous by Cirque de Soleil before joining the school’s acro-team.
“She just a really lovely human being. In a lot of ways, she is what any coach could hope for. She’s a hard worker and a strong leader on our team. As the oldest, she really steps up to the plate for the other girls.”