ATASCADERO — For just over three years, the Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press have been chronicling the accomplishments, setbacks, and resurgence of the county’s youngest star Keenan Howell. After sacrificing everything a normal 15-year-old has from his friends to his home to just eating pounds of junk food, he has made it. Howell is officially a member of USA Gymnastics and will compete with the USA emblem on his chest and with the pride of a nation blowing wind into his sails at not one, but two different international competitions in Tumbling and Trampoline.
It has been a long and tumultuous road for the tall, blonde, shaggy-haired gymnast that began here in Atascadero. Howell began his journey working out at Legacy in San Luis Obispo but started racking up medals as it quickly became clear that he was a big fish in a small stagnant pond and as his talents and aspirations grew he was forced to find a bigger body of water to accommodate his tremendous abilities and untapped potential. At only 14 years old, Howell, with the support of his amazing family, made the decision to move down to Rancho Santa Margarita on his own to begin training at a top-tier facility with current Olympians as his coaches.
Hours from home and often alone, the transition was tough as it would be on any kid but his determination and dedication kept him driven. Just last week the Atascadero News ran a story about Howell taking second in the Youth Elite competition where he was afterward selected for USA Gymnastics, however, he was still waiting to hear if he would be chosen to compete for the USA in any of the upcoming competitions. On Friday, July 12 at around 1 p.m. it became official, Howell and the entire city of Atascadero will be representing the United States in two upcoming international competitions.
Home for a few weeks following his grueling season, Howell checked the USA Gymnastics page for updates sitting alone in the house Friday afternoon while his parents were at work.
“When I found out I called my mom and dad who were at work,” Howell said with a smile stretched across his entire face. “I told them I was going to Tokyo and Spain and was almost crying it was so cool.”
Howell has been invited to compete at the Spanish International Invitational in the first week of October and the World Age Group competition in Tokyo two months after.
“It is such an honor,” he said. “It is really cool. I never thought this would happen, especially not this soon but just knowing that hard work and dedication do pay off is a great feeling.”
Not only will this be the young 15-year-old’s first trip to Spain and Tokyo but his first trip out of the United States. While Atascadero’s own prodigy is over the moon with his invitation he is not complacent, in fact, far from it. After very little time at home, Howell headed back down to Rancho Santa Margarita to begin training for Spain. It is time to put together his routine that can bring home medals for not just himself but also for his country.
“I am going to do something harder. I am going to be doing a triple. That is one of my main big upgrades. It is going to be… I think I got it,” he said with a smirk. “It’s going to be a little harder but we’ll see what happens.”
However, it is not just Keenan who has sacrificed for his success. His parents Zoe and Don work nearly non-stop to be able to keep their son in the situations he needs for success. The Howell’s have created a go-fund-me page that is open to the public and all proceeds go directly toward supporting Keenan who now has his sights set on the 2024 Olympics (he cannot compete this year because he is still too young). With all the pride and support that Atascadero and Paso Robles take in their athletes, it shouldn’t take long for them to hit their goal and for the North County to soon have an Olympian.
The link to the Howelll’s go-fund-me is posted below.