By Erin Tierney – The Creswell Chronicle
Agile and calm, young and focused, local teen Henry Parette is grasping for the brass ring – literally.
With over 130 medals and having competed in over 50 meets, Parette, 17, has had a love affair with gymnastics since he was a small child.
Parette will be a senior at Oregon Connections Academy in the fall and moved to Oregon from Alabama when he was just 9 years old. A bit of a rambunctious young boy, Parette’s parents, Tammy and Lonnie, felt it would do some good to send him to a summer camp to help him straighten out and burn off excess energy. They decided gymnastics would be a good fit.
They were right.
While at camp, Parette connected with his coach, Corey Long. This was Long’s first time as coach at the camp, so everything was new for the both of them. Long, with loads of experience under his belt, recognized something special in Henry almost immediately.
“I was just playing around at camp, and the first event I did was rings,” Parette said. “It kind of came natural to me and I did some swings I found easy. After that, Corey asked me to join the boys’ team of about 15 kids.”
An exercise on rings consists of swing, strength and hold elements and requires extreme upper-body strength. It’s no easy feat, but Parette discovered it was a specialty of his. Parette also enjoys gymnastics on the floor pommel horse, parallel bars, high bars and vault.
Feeling encouraged, Henry continued to train under Corey, subsequently moving up in the ranks. His routines consisted of cartwheels, roundoffs and some basic gymnastics skills. When his first meet came around, he stole first place in all of his level’s competitions, and also took third place at State.
He continued to climb to more difficult levels, but Parette was having some personal issues, which caused him to quit gymnastics for about six months at a time.
“I would get discouraged and would lose the motivation to keep practicing,” Parette said.
Since the age of nine, Parette has quit gymnastics about six times, and he said it’s been difficult to play catch-up after those hiatuses.
Still, each time he quit, he’s come back to the sport.
“Every time I would quit, I would feel bored and just…empty without (gymnastics),” Parette said, but the hiatuses caused complications because Parette’s skills weren’t being kept up.
“Every time I would quit, I would get further and further behind and it would take me longer and longer to get back to where I was,” Parette said. “I would lose skills I’ve developed and it made it hard to compete; each year I would move down a spot on the podium.”
It’s been three years since Henry last quit, and there’s no prospect of another hiatus anytime soon, Parette said.
Upon first glance, gymnastics may seems like an individual sport, but Parette disagrees.
“The team component is much more important than the individual component,” Parette said. “It creates bonds and can help introduce other people to gymnastics.”
One of Parette’s gymnastic role models is Sam Mikulak, is a seven-time NCAA champion in gymnastics, winning the all-around and several other titles and competing in the 2012 and ’16 Summer Olympics.
Parette said he respects that Mikulak is “humble about the sport and his performances and is a good teammate.”
Parette’s advice to others is wise, recommending that people who are pursuing their interests “stay confident in what you do and just keep doing it in a positive way. If you have a positive vibe, others will, too.”
He currently works out at the National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics in Eugene, where he practices six days a week for four hours a day — plus two extra hours for elite training. The gymnastics group ranges from 12- to 17-year-olds.
“Eighteen is a big year for me,” Parette said. “This year determines whether or not I get into collegiate gymnastics.”
Parette is focused on finding a spot on a college gymnastics team, noting there are only about 18 schools in the nation that have male gymnastics available.
Though he is leaving his options open, he’s setting his sights on the University of Illinois at Chicago, but also intends to apply for other colleges, such as the University of Washington.