Emily SantiAnna

Florence's Emily SantiAnna poses with the 386 medals she has won in gymnastics.

FLORENCE, S.C. -- When Emily SantiAnna walked through the doors of Florence Gymnastics at the age of 6, she could never have imagined how it would change her life.

By October 2008, she was competing in her very first gymnastics competition at Level 4.

For the past 12 years, SantiAnna trained at the City of Florence gymnastics center at Freedom Florence for 10 to 20 hours a week, and she has competed in more than 100 competitions in this region, in both USAG and AAU, and she holds several state and national titles.

SantiAnna was also a member of Team Florence at the International Children’s Games in Windsor, Canada, in 2013 when she competed with gymnasts from all over the world. This year, SantiAnna competed at the highest level one can achieve before elite: Level 10. To put things in perspective, at South Carolina USAG State Championships this year, there were only 21 Level 10 gymnasts, as the skills are extremely difficult.

Last weekend, SantiAnna competed for the final time at AAU Gymnastics Nationals at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World. Although SantiAnna decided not to pursue gymnastics in college, all of her hard work and training will be put to good use, as she will be a cheerleader at Clemson University, where she will be majoring in special education in the fall.

As she says goodbye to gymnastics, SantiAnna takes with her so many fantastic memories, some of the most amazing friends, and invaluable life lessons that will carry her through life.

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