In May when Miki Aderinto tied for fourth place in the all around, on bars and on floor at level 10 nationals, she was as overjoyed as if she’d swept all the medals. “[I] never want to leave Daytona and all the fun I have had,” she wrote on Instagram.
Aderinto’s achievement at nationals, indeed, was not quantifiable in gold medals. After years of battling mental blocks, she finally overcame her demons, posting the fourth highest all around score of the class of 2022 and being named to the national team.
“My biggest accomplishments are all the mental blocks I have overcome in my career of level 10,” Aderinto said. “It was exciting and cool to get the opportunity to go to nationals, place fourth and be a national team member.”
No routine was sweeter than her bars set, where she posted a 9.750, her second highest score ever on the event. Of all apparatuses, Aderinto explained, bars was the one that gave her the most problems over the years. “I have relearned my bar routine numerous times and had so [many] great fears and mental blocks to the point I wouldn’t go or was left without a routine,” she said.
In the past two years, though, Aderinto was able to develop a new level of confidence in her gymnastics, which boosted her scores and helped her post career highs on vault, bars and floor. This year, moreover, she won four gold medals at the Arizona state meet and was third in the all around at regionals.
Aderinto believes her renewed confidence is due to her newfound maturity and approach to life, but she especially credits her new coach, Geoff Eaton. If Eaton feels like a familiar name, it’s probably because he’s the father of 2020 Olympic skateboard bronze medalist Jagger Eaton. Geoff, however, is a former gymnast and the son of Mark “Stormy” Eaton, the founder of Desert Devils Gymnastics. He carried on his father’s activity after his passing in 1995, and after recently taking a break from gymnastics, he’s now back at the gym coaching Aderinto, among others.
“He brought a very different outlook on gymnastics, which at first I thought was an old way to think of things,” Aderinto said of Eaton. “But it comes to show in my scores that his methods and ideas, although foreign, work really well with me and how I am as a person.”
Her recent successes in gymnastics allowed Aderinto to commit to California, one of the top 10 schools in the nation. She’s not the first Desert Devils gymnast to end up at Berkeley: Cal’s co-head coach Liz Crandall-Howell is also a Desert Devils alumna.
Aderinto chose Cal for the athletic and academic opportunities the university offers, as well as for the warm welcome she received from the team. Plus, she was inspired by the Golden Bears’ historic 2021 season, which included entering NCAA nationals ranked No. 5 and posting the three highest scores in program history. Cal’s unprecedented accomplishments were “awesome to witness,” Aderinto said. “This somewhat had a role in my decision, as I would love to be a part of history such as that one.”
As she prepares for her final year of club gymnastics before leaving for college, Aderinto hopes to qualify once again to nationals and to share the experience with her teammates, with whom she’s very close. She also hopes to leave her own mark at Desert Devils, helping the rising level 10s grow in a positive and fun environment.
If any of her teammates were to go through a hard time, she can now tell them from personal experience that everything will be OK—obstacles will make them stronger in and out of the gym. Her own hardships, Aderinto said, “taught me how to work through fear on a daily [basis] and made me a much stronger person and athlete. I use what I have learned from these bad experiences [on bars] on other events in the gym and in any other aspects in life. [They will not be] holding me back from being the best me possible.”
Article by Talitha Ilacqua
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