Back in November, Cydney Crasa got a phone call from George Washington University. The school offered her a full scholarship for gymnastics, and the Ward Melville junior, caught off guard, reacted like anyone would.
"I couldn't contain my emotions," Crasa said. "They made the offer, and after I said yes and got off the phone, I started to cry. It was like all my hard work paid off. I still have to pinch myself."
Added Ward Melville coach and Cydney's mother, Caryl: "They've never offered a scholarship to a junior that early. She was screaming and jumping up and down."
But it was how Crasa handled herself in the weeks and months that followed that demonstrated how she earned such an impressive opportunity in the first place.
Where some might see a full ride as an excuse to ease off the gas pedal, Crasa's work ethic never wavered -- not in the gym, and not in the classroom. Crasa won gold in the vault (9.825) and in the balance beam (9.575) at the state tournament in Buffalo.
Between the end of the high school gymnastics season in November and the state tournament, Crasa was in the gym practicing "more than ever." Six days a week, four hours a day, with much of it spent at Exper-Tiess Gymnastics in Ronkonkoma.
"My coaches there, Barbara and Mary Tiess, have been so helpful," Crasa said. "They push me and are responsible for keeping me at a high level.
"There's really no offseason."
Crasa has bypassed the college admissions process and all the associated stress. But even a mapped-out future hasn't deterred her efforts in the classroom.
"They say 11th grade is the hardest, but she hasn't let her grades slip," Caryl Crasa said. "Nothing has really fazed her motivation. She hasn't slowed down."
At the state tournament, Crasa used a Yurchenko layout to take her second career gold in the vault and a backhand spring layout for her third career win in the beam. But even more memorable than those two wins, Crasa said, was the gold medal she received for being a part of Suffolk's first-place team finish.
"This was my fifth year at the state championships, and I've gotten an individual gold every year but never a team medal before this year," Crasa said. "That was really special because we're a young group of girls. None of us are seniors. It was special to show everyone that we could do it and pull together to come out on top."
A vocal leader for Ward Melville, Crasa's leadership carried over to Suffolk's team and played an integral part in its success.
"As one of the younger people on the team, it's really nice to have her," Ward Melville eighth-grader Katie Bowe said. "She inspires everyone to do better. She always gives pep talks and encourages people to do the best that they can."