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Bowers balances gymnastics, diabetes

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By Gavin Jenkins
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
 

Taylor Bowers was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes in November, and the Kittanning eighth grader has been keeping the disease under control with gymnastics.

Bowers is a patient of Dr. Fida Bacha of the Diabetes Endocrine Clinic at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh. Dr. Bacha believes the discipline and exercise involved with gymnastics has helped Bowers battle the disease.

"She has a regular schedule, with eating and exercising at a certain time," Dr. Bacha said. "All this helps her have optimum blood sugar control.

"Also, exercise makes the body more sensitive to insulin. It makes it work better, so she needs a smaller amount of insulin. She's a good role model for kids with diabetes."

Bowers, 14, isn't just in gymnastics for the exercise, though. She's been a gymnast since age 3, and on Saturday she will compete in the Level 9 Eastern Gymnastics Championship in Dayton, Ohio.

On her way to qualifying for the eastern championship, Bowers took sixth at the Level 9 state finals and 10th at the Level 9 regional championship.

"This year, pretty much the beam has been my favorite. I've been doing really well on it," Bowers said. "My routines have been solid."

Bowers practices at the Butler Gymnastics Club from 4 to 7 :30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. She is the daughter of Kurt and Tish Bowers. Kurt Bowers graduated from Kittanning in 1977, and then played football at Indiana (Pa.) University.

Tish Bowers said her daughter was doing perfect cartwheels at age 2, so she signed her up for a gymnastics class at the Butler Gymnastics Club to see if she'd enjoy it.

"She definitely gets her athleticism from him," said Tish Bowers, referring to her husband. "Gymnastics isn't a sport parents can make you do. You have to love what you do to be that dedicated."

Tish Bowers believes being diagnosed with juvenile diabetes has helped her daughter appreciate gymnastics even more.

"Since being diagnosed, she has realized how important all the exercises are," Tish Bowers said. "It keeps her blood sugars in a reasonable range, more in check than someone who doesn't do an activity, and she knows the importance of the sport and continuing it."

The Bowers' have no family history of diabetes, but juvenile diabetes is not restricted to people with a family history, unlike type two diabetes, according to Dr. Bacha.

"The rates are low, 1 in 500 children are diagnosed," said Dr. Bacha, who treats over 2,000 children. "But, that's still a big number and makes it a chronic disease."

Bowers said her dream is to receive a college gymnastics scholarship. She needs to become a Level 10 gymnast in order to get a Division I scholarship, according to her mother.

Bowers has two younger sisters, Brenna, 12, and Mia, 7. Brenna Bowers is a Level 7 gymnast.

 

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