Full of grace

Malvern cheerleader/dancer/ gymnast shows poise in all areas of life

— Fifteen-year-old Jeni Turner of Malvern, formerly of Arkadelphia, has a lot to cheer about - literally. She's won the honor of State All Star Cheer Champion and State Level 6 Gymnastics Champion. But even with those achievements, Jeni seems more interested in the things that excite most 15-year-olds are, like turning 16 in November.

The Glen Rose High School sophomore has the typical teenager lifestyle - disagreements with her mom, Cindy, about just how late is too late to receive a phone call, anxiously awaiting the day she can drive, and a boyfriend named Charlie Young whom she describes with a smile as a "star linebacker" at Glen Rose.

But there's a lot that's not typical about Jeni Turner. This summer, she's teaching 10 hours of dance at her family's business, Stars Dance, Cheer and Gymnastics in Malvern. She's alsoteaching gymnastics and cheer there. Jeni is actually one of the owners of the business, along with her mom and dad, Nathan Turner. In addition to teaching dance, she practices gymnastics "a couple of hours a day, three or four times a week." She practices cheering and dancing at least an hour a day.

"She's pretty self-motivated," said Cindy, pointing out that in addition to the 10 hours of dance she's teaching this summer, Jeni enrolled to take four hours herself. Plus, she does other work at the family business. Cindy said her daughter helps clean the building and has learned many of the duties the business requires. "Someday, she can take over the whole business. I think she could run it now," Cindy added.

Last year, Jeni won every cheerleading competition and gymnastics meet she entered, a total of 19. She's been taking lessons for a while. "Take ballet," Jeni advises to others who want to be successful cheerleaders and gymnasts. She started ballet 11 years ago in Arkadelphia with teacher Fran Robinson. "Ballet is the basis of all things she does," Cindy said. "It taught her foundation and grace."

Lacy Smead of Hot Springs is one of Jeni's coaches now. Jeni's dad, a sergeant for the Army National Guard by day, is also her gymnastics and cheering coach. This summer, Jeni will also be coached by Bela Karolyi, 2000 USA Gymnastics Women's National Team Coordinator, in Houston.

One unique thing aboutJeni's accomplishments is that she makes the decisions to practice and compete herself, Cindy said.

"She did pageants for a while, but just decided she didn't want to anymore," Cindy said.

Jeni said she'd like to return to pageant competition in the Teen Miss Arkansas pageant. She's also thinking about auditioning for a spot on the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader squad her senior year.

Jeni spent a summer in New York modeling. At age 10, she modeled for Target. She was invited back the next summer. "She chose to stay home to go to the water park with her friends, though," Cindy said.

Cindy said Jeni has always liked to stay on the go. "Shegoes every minute, but still has a 3.8 grade point average. A's and B's are okay with us," she added. Jeni will begin tutoring a fourth-grader in academics this fall. She'll also be working as a choreographer for cheering squads at Malvern Junior High School and Glen Rose Junior and Senior High schools.

With her accomplishments in dance, cheer and gymnastics, one might think Jeni's career path is obvious.

"I want to be an OB/GYN," she said. "Well, science is my best subject," she explained.

No matter what career choice Jeni makes later, she will face its challenges with the dedication, ambition and grace she's learned in gymnastics, dance and cheering.

Tri-Lakes, Pages 65 on 07/19/2007

Upcoming Events