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Graber signs letter of intent with University of Alabama

March 1, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

While nearly all the athletic programs at North Fort Myers High School play and practice in public, Lexi Graber is one of the exceptions.

Her practices are done in the privacy of a gymnasium and her competitions are not at Mariner or Fort Myers high schools, but in Tampa, Orlando and even Indianapolis.

Graber is a gymnast, and a real good one. She's so good that last month, Graber signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Alabama on an athletic scholarship.

For Graber, it was the culmination of a dream, to not only tumble on a full ride, but with a school she has always wanted to compete for.

"I'm super excited. I'm a little bit nervous and the Southeastern Conference is such a big conference, but I've been trained really well by my coaches," Graber said. "I get to go to the college of my dreams and I'm excited."

Graber was one of eight athletes to commit to a program, but perhaps Graber's accomplishment was most impressive. North doesn't have a gymnastics team, leaving her to her own devices to create bonds and motivate herself to put in the hard work necessary to compete at such an elite level.

"It's difficult. My teammates aren't at school, but I've made a lot of sisterhoods through gymnastics. I love what I do," Graber said.

Graber is a level 10 gymnast, meaning she is good enough to perform at in college. Graber performed at the next level up, Elite, which puts with the best gymnasts in the nation, for more than two years. She said achieving that finally gave her the confidence that she could compete with anyone.

Graber got into gymnastics at the age of four, tumbling around the house

Graber started looking at colleges in seventh grade, as she knew it's hard to get into college through gymnastics. She got interest from Michigan, Michigan State, Utah and Georgia, but she said she really wanted to go to Alabama, which has a great tradition in that sport.

"I've always watched gymnastics on TV. When I saw them, I thought they were so wonderful,' Graber said.

When visiting Alabama, Graber fell in love with the campus and her coaches and met a lot of her soon-to-be teammate whom she has competed against for years and formed a bond with them. The only negative is that it means having to compete against Florida every year.

Lexi isn't the only one who sacrificed. Jodi, Lexi's mom, said she has given up a lot to travel (she works at Lexi's gym), but that it has all been worth it.

"You always dream it, but reality is something else. You dream big and hope for the best. We're very excited about it," Jodi said. "It's been great. You get to meet new people and get great kinds of experiences."

Cathi Curtis, Lexi's coach for the last four years, said she has an amazing amount of talent, dedication and discipline and sets a great example for younger kids to emulate.

"She's a great competitor and an excellent role model for the younger gymnasts and even coaches them now. She's a great representative for the sport," Curtis said.

Lexi said she's an all-around gymnast, but perhaps excels at the vault more than anything. She scored a perfect 10 earlier this year in the event at a national meet in Tallahassee to win the event.

Curtis said a shot at the Olympics is not out of the question, although she will be 21 when the next Olympics roll around, which is considered old in her sport.

Lexi is looking to get into the medical field, possibly physical therapy.



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