FARGO — There may not be many competitors in his sport in North Dakota, but a local high school senior hasn’t let that keep him from attaining a major goal.
Ben Lund, 17, recently accepted an invitation to compete in men’s gymnastics at Arizona State University in Tempe.
He’s believed to be the first male gymnast from a North Dakota club to ever compete in college gymnastics.
Davis Beattie, head coach of the boys team at American Gold Gymnastics in Fargo, said Lund secured the offer on his own.
“He sought it out. He contacted the schools, figured out where he could go and got himself there,” Beattie said.
Lund, a student at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, made his commitment official during a ceremony earlier this month at American Gold, where he trains four hours a day, four to five days a week.
“Your personality is definitely shaped in the sport, and you get really strong,” Lund said, of the added physical bonus.
Lund is a fourth-year Level 10 gymnast, the highest that can be attained in USA Gymnastics, or USAG, which is the national governing body for the sport.
It took years to rise up through the ranks before that, progressing and learning bigger skills.
“It’s not a very common occurrence to get boys up into that higher level… That's the kind of time and commitment it takes,” Beattie said.
Lund’s favorite of the six men's events is the rings, he said, because he likes doing giant swings and his dismount — a full-twisting double back.
His second favorite is the floor exercise.
“I like twisting and also being able to flip around pretty much every time you do a pass,” he said.
Lund started at age 4 in a recreational program at TNT Kid’s Fitness in Fargo, where Beattie coached. Later, when Beattie moved to American Gold, Lund followed.
He’s pretty much the only head coach Lund has known.
“Some days he’s tough on me, other days he likes to joke around,” Lund said.
Lund is among 11 boys at American Gold competing this season, and more than 30 competing for gyms across the state, said Beattie, who also serves as state chair of the men’s program.
TNT in Fargo also fields a boys’ team, as do gyms in Grand Forks and Beulah, but there are no high school boys’ gymnastics teams in the state, Beattie said.
Enrollment in boys gymnastics is better now than it’s been in a while.
“It’s very grassroots… how everything's come back,” Beattie said.
Beattie coaches in his “spare” time, when he’s not working as a software engineer.
As men’s state chair, his goal is to foster growth in the sport and to get kids started in gymnastics at a young age, but also to try not to monopolize their time.
He wants them to be able to do other sports as well, like he did growing up in Bismarck-Mandan.
Lund qualified to compete at the USAG national championships in 2019, the last time it was held before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
He had to hit all six of his routines in order to qualify.
“He is definitely a clutch performer. He knows when it's time to turn on and compete,” Beattie said.
Beattie said he thinks Lund has a “fairly good shot” of getting in one more national competition before he graduates in the spring.
Lund’s goal is to earn a spot in the team lineups after he arrives in Phoenix later this year.
While men’s gymnastics was cut as an NCAA sport at ASU in 1993, the school runs a successful club program that competes against NCAA teams throughout the season.
Instead of an NCAA tournament, the team takes part in USAG Collegiate Nationals at the end of the season. It’s won 22 national titles over the years, according to the team’s website.
“It’s still real, genuine big gymnastics,” Beattie said.
Robin Huebner is a former Elite-level gymnast and 1976 national champion who went on to compete for the University of Minnesota, where she won 6 Big Ten individual titles. She’s now a certified USA Gymnastics judge.