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Pursuing the Dream

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Pursuing the Dream

AIaina Raybon performs while her teammates cheer her on.

AIaina Raybon performs while her teammates cheer her on.

Peyton Raybon

AIaina Raybon performs while her teammates cheer her on.

Peyton Raybon

Peyton Raybon

AIaina Raybon performs while her teammates cheer her on.

Audrey Kelly, Website Production Team

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Four year old Alaina Raybon walks into her first gymnastics class and decides it right then and there — she’s going to be a gymnast.

And 14 years later, she is accepted into college on a full ride for gymnastics, a moment that made the little girl inside of her realize that she made the right choice.

“My siblings were actually in gymnastics before me, and after watching their practices as a kid, I knew I wanted to do it as well,” Raybon said.

Having graduated from Wando in 2018, she is now a freshman at Michigan State University, fulfilling the dream she has always had in her heart. Gymnastics isn’t just a hobby for her — it’s a way for her to know what it feels like to fly. To see herself grow and learn everyday.

“Michigan was the best choice financially and gym wise. I remember when I decided on that school, I called up the coaches and told them. The relief that went through me! All of the work I put into it was getting recognized, and when they offered the scholarship to me, they were giving me my chance,” Raybon said.

And even before that chance was given, she had qualified for national championships twice in her life already, both when she was merely in high school.

But it wasn’t always easy. Nothing can be. Before everything came together, Raybon went through a period where she couldn’t see the light at the end.

“Around 12 or 13, it was rough. I had been at it for eight years at that point and while I always had doubts throughout my training, that was when it was worse. It gets tough mentally and physically and I felt like I was at a halt,” she said.

Pullquote Photo

It gets tough mentally and physically and I felt like I was at a halt.”

— Alaina Raybon

Yet her parents, Kenya and Christopher, didn’t let that sliver of a moment in her life take her down. They stood by her, day after day, telling her that while she messed up today, there’s still always tomorrow.

“I remember when the email came, accepting her. It had all the information for her scholarship and it was so exciting. I framed it as soon as I could — it was the visual representation of all her tears, injuries and sacrifices paying off,” Ms. Raybon said.

With years and years of devotion and dedicating 20 hours of training a week during school, one would think Raybon would be striving for the Olympics, but she has other ideas in mind.

Peyton Raybon
Raybon engages in a conversation during Michigan State University gymnastics competition

“After college I’ll be hanging up the leos. My major right now is kinesiology, the study of body movements, and I’m more focused on that for the long run,” she said. “Something I would love to do and be an absolute dream is to open up a gymnastics training center to help kids go through what I went through.”

So why would she rather help others than go for the gold? It’s simple — Raybon is all about how the sport makes you feel. To her, it isn’t about winning medals or trophies, it’s about winning pride in knowing she overcame her fears and proved herself wrong.

She just wants to enjoy what she loves.

“Whenever it gets hard or I question if it was worth it, I remind myself why I started. I remember that little girl who wanted so badly to be in college gymnastics,” Raybon said.

It’s all for her.

Balancing training, schoolwork, friendships, and family, she does what she does knowing that somewhere out there, there’s another kid that has the same dream, and she wants to be an example.

“Growing up, if I could’ve, I never would have never the gym or practice. It was my happy place. I would have stayed there all the time, just enjoying myself,” she said.

And that little girl, the one who idolized Alicia Sacramone, who fell off of the beam on her first try, and dreamed of helping others, would be proud.

“I remember when I was younger, I always wanted to be right where I am now,” Raybon said. “No more, no less, just happy and in school, so I guess it came full circle. Life can be funny like that.”

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