If the country runs into a metal shortage, it might want to call on Alexa Pospiech. The River Ridge High sophomore has accumulated more than 80 medals and 20 trophies from gymnastics, soccer and cheerleading.
Pospiech, 16, began gymnastics at age 7.
"I became motivated after watching the 2000 Summer Olympics and seeing the efforts and focus of the women gymnasts," she said. "Plus, my mom is a former gymnastic star. She was a tremendous help in all phases of my development."
With five practices per week and competitions on weekends, Pospiech developed into a top talent. At age 12, she earned the title of Level 6 all-around national champion, scoring a near-perfect 9.8 on the uneven bars.
During the next two years, however, she fractured her wrist four times and suffered a hyperextended elbow. "Those injuries were a message to move on," said Pospiech.
Looking for a team sport where she could use her gymnastic skills, she started cheerleading with Pasco Elite. Last year, as a freshman at River Ridge, Pospiech was selected to join the varsity cheerleading team as a flyer.
"Alexa is a born leader," said River Ridge varsity cheerleading coach Melissa Hill. "Even though she's only a sophomore, she drives others to be better because she is such a focused and positive person. I've never met anyone who works as hard as she does and pushes herself to new heights every day. She's an incredible athlete in all of the sports she plays and one of the best cheerleaders I have ever seen. Her tumbling skills are exceptional. She works very hard at perfecting her cheerleading skills."
Pospiech's tumbling skills were evident last year when she competed against hundreds of athletes in a competition at Tropicana Field and captured first place.
Another sport in which Pospiech excels is soccer. Pasco Elite coach Stuart Chastain had high praise for the midfielder.
"I have coached Alexa on and off since she was 10," Chastain said. "She is a true team player, focused and an extremely tough competitor who always gives 100 percent."
Nicknamed "The Beast" for her tenacious play, Pospiech often returned to matches after suffering injuries.
In school, she has a 3.8 grade-point average and is a consistent honors student.
"My mother is my role model because of her focus on my studies," Pospiech said. "On the drive home from school, she asks about my classes, homework and study assignments. I must maintain a 3.2 GPA to stay on the honor roll or I will not be allowed to participate in sports. Her caring so much helps me focus on getting a good education."
"Alexa's leadership abilities and character are most notable in her actions, not her words," said River Ridge English teacher Nan Bodnar. "In class, she is always one of the first to get to work and she stays focused on the assignment until she completes it. Others around her will finish and try to tempt her into conversation or draw her off task. She works on showing them that you can focus, get your work done well and still be cool. She 'stays cool' by being herself and sharing what she finds important and/or inspirational without caring what others may say. Her pride and commitment then inspires others."
One area of Pospiech's commitment is her volunteer work with handicapped children. Since elementary school, she has volunteered as a peer buddy to autistic children. She assists with reading and socializing with others. "They inspire me because they go out and do not care what anyone thinks about them."
Tuesday afternoons, she is a cheerleading coach of the Pasco Elite True Stars. Working with children ages 4-14 who have Down syndrome and autism, Pospiech teaches synchronized routines and jumps. They regularly participate in competitions and parades.
"We are very excited to see a young lady like Alexa recognized in the media for all the positive influences she has on the people around her," said River Ridge principal Jim Michaels. "An outstanding student, member of the dance team and cheerleading squad, Alexa's attitude rubs off on everyone she touches. She typifies what we want from our young people and we look forward to two more years and the great impact this outstanding young lady will have on our school."