Kayla DiCello

Between a full load of classes and 32 hours of gymnastics training per week, 15-year-old Kayla DiCello doesn’t have much time to spare. To keep up with her schoolwork, she’ll often study during car rides to and from the gym. But whenever the grind starts to take its toll, she says, “I think about my goal, which is to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.”

It’s been 16 years since Montgomery County has had an artistic gymnast at the Olympics. But Kayla, a sophomore at Northwest High School in Germantown who is already being asked to sign autographs for classmates, took a step in that direction during a breakout 2019 season. In August, USA Today named her one of “five gymnasts to watch” leading up to the Summer Games.

In Kayla’s first major international competition—the 2019 Junior World Artistic Gymnastics Championships held in Hungary last June—she won gold on vault and bronze on the balance beam. She followed those impressive performances with an all-around title at the U.S. junior national championships in August. Her total score for the competition, 112.700, which included gold-medal efforts on vault and floor, and bronze on the uneven bars, would have been good enough for third place in the senior competition behind decorated Olympian Simone Biles (118.500) and fellow U.S. National Team member Sunisa Lee (113.550). Kayla, who lives in Boyds, turns 16 in January, making her eligible to compete at the senior level and qualify for a spot on the Olympic roster.

Kayla’s weekly training regimen includes four “two-a-days”—three hours before school, four hours after—at Hill’s Gymnastics in Gaithersburg, where she first attended a mommy-and-me class with her mother, Kecia, at age 2. Her coach, Kelli Hill, has worked with several Olympic gymnasts, including Silver Spring native Dominique Dawes, a three-time Olympian whom Kayla looks up to.

As a member of the Junior U.S. National Team, Kayla attended the U.S. Women’s National Team training camp in November. The U.S. Olympic Team Trials are set for June 25-28. We’ll be watching.