Big Sky Taekwondo builds champions and confidence
Big Sky Taekwondo sent six athletes to nationals. Four medaled and three are national champions. Stephanie Harrell started two years ago, which makes her relatively new to the sport.
"I kinda just wanted to do Taekwondo and my dad was like hey you should do competitive sparring," the 15-year-old said.
She won gold at nationals in sparring and third in form. She then went to AAU's and finished second in sparring.
Her little sister, Heather, wanted to get involved in the sport too. Similar to Stephanie, she walked away from nationals with two gold medals. One in sparring and one in form.
"I kept going even when I was tired and I won," Heather smiled.
The fourth gold medal belongs to Benjamin Teel. The ten-year-old won first in sparring and second in form. At nationals, he learned one big lesson when watching some of the best competition.
"Not everyone trains the same," Teel noted. "Some people you can tell when they put in the work and when they don't."
Xiang-Fei Linares has a second degree black belt. She won regionals to make it to nationals. According to Linares, she is already focused on her goals for next year.
"To win the next nationals and go to the Olympic center."
All of the competitors at Big Sky Taekwondo trained twenty hours a week to prepare for nationals. According to owner and master instructor, Jay White, the results were indicative of the hard training. But he added the sport is more about what it teaches young athletes outside the gym.
"There are so many kids with identity issues. There are so many kids that are being bullied," White said. "It's not about being able to defend yourself physically, it's about being able to be confident enough to know this isn't OK and voice that."