Camden 13-year-old makes junior national team

Love Birt is not your average teenager. Each day, she commutes almost three hours round trip from her home in Camden to a gym in Newark, practicing gymnastics in most of her waking hours. She breaks for an online homeschooling program in the afternoon. Then, it’s back to the mats.

While other athletes share a similar routine, one of Love’s coaches at First State Gymnastics, Brooke Parker, said she’s got something special.

“Love is extremely self-motivated. She’s here to train hard and we don’t have to push her,” Parker said. “It’s definitely a very grueling, hard schedule, and it takes a special kid to be successful in both the gymnastics and the special schooling that we’re asking them to do.”

Love said she stays motivated each day by thinking about her goals. “Somedays I know I don’t necessarily want to get up and go, [but] then I remember everything I’m trying to accomplish and I have to keep going.”

Recently, Love’s hard work has paid off in a big way. She was selected to attend a national camp where she competed against other high-level gymnasts her age. There, she was chosen to represent the United States on the junior national team.

“It was really cool. I was super happy, and I wasn’t really expecting it,” Love said.

Although she was assigned to compete in Canada, the coronavirus pandemic prompted a change. She will now go to a friendly competition at the national training center in April. She hopes to keep competing on the national team and earn a college scholarship.

Parker believes Love’s work ethic is behind all her success. “Love is one of the hardest working kids in this gym,” she said. “It almost brings a tear to your eye because she deserves it so much.”

Love’s mother, Rachel Birt, has been watching her fire for gymnastics kindle and flourish since she started at five years old.

“It’s exciting. It’s nerve-wracking. It’s scary at times,” Birt said. “It’s definitely a whole mixed bag of emotions watching her compete and practice day in and day out.”