- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. (AP) - Four years ago when William and Amanda Garrison let their eldest daughter pick up a pair of boxing gloves, they couldn’t predict where they’d be standing now.

Sarah Garrison, 13, and Emily Garrison, 10, were slated to compete in Dallas through July 2 in the Junior Olympic National Championship. The girls are representing Wyoming after qualifying through stunning performances in the Wyoming National Prep Junior Olympic Tournament, Wyoming State Games and WYOMONDAK Regional Championships, which is the region made up of Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

In her short career Sarah has already seen glimpses of success, reported the Rocket-Miner (https://bit.ly/295NUn3). She won the Wyoming Junior Olympic/Prep title, WYOMONDAK Regional title and Division 10 Silvergloves Regional title for the last two years. Sarah enters nationals with a 10-3 record, including four wins by knockout. Sarah competes in the national intermediate division against 13- to 14-year-olds between 112-119 pounds.

This isn’t Sarah’s first time qualifying for national - she also qualified in 2014 and 2015 - but this was to be her first time going; and this time she was set to have her sister by her side, not just as her fan and supporter but as a fellow competitor.

Emily decided to pick up the sport herself a year ago. She went into nationals with a 3-2 record to compete against 8- to 10-year-olds who weigh 70 pounds.

The Garrison family is used to traveling, and the trip to Dallas would be their longest one yet, but the girls were too excited to care. The opportunity to compete at the USA Junior Olympic National Boxing Championship is just the first step for the Garrison sisters.

“It will be nice to see some new competition. We have seen a lot of the same kids and a lot of the same fighting styles,” Sarah said. “Seeing some different kids would give us more experience and it will also be cool to see how other people do their thing.”

GARRISON EQUALS BOXING

William Garrison, a boxer in his high school years, wanted his eldest daughter to get involved in a sport and so he taught her what he knew best. Emily decided to take up boxing so she could spend more time with her sister and dad. Now it’s a family affair.

“It was a way for them to be physically fit, but they have really developed a love for the sport and so they’ve gone a lot further competition-wise than we ever imagined,” Amanda Garrison said.

The girls train three hours a day, mostly out of their home gym. They do bag work for about 30 to 40 minutes along with foot drills and box drills in the morning. Amanda Garrison teaches Zumba at Western Wyoming Community College, so the girls get some more cardio in there. In the afternoon the girls do mitt work as well as 60 to 90 minutes of sparring with their father. William Garrison doesn’t just wear the title of dad but coach too.

Both William and Amanda Garrison are certified officials and coaches. Amanda Garrison was recently named the regional vice president for the junior Olympic section of USA Boxing.

Getting involved in ways other than just being parents was important to William and Amanda Garrison. It allows them to make sure that Sarah and Emily are getting good matches as well as growing from their experiences.

Currently the Garrisons travel to Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota and Colorado for matches. Although the number of girl boxers seems to increase each year, finding matches can still be difficult. Matches are made based on age, weight and experience.

“USA Boxing has really strict protocols as far as who can fight with whom in conjunction with age and weight,” Amanda Garrison said. “They are never hugely mismatched.”

Five fights are the required amount to qualify for nationals. With the minimum required under her belt, Emily will be competing against girls not just her age and weight but girls with less than 10 fights as well. Once boxers hit 10 fights, like Sarah, they are considered an open class fighter, which means they have a certain amount of experience where they will be OK. With 13 fights worth of experience, Sarah could find herself up against someone who has 20.

A STRONG WORK ETHIC

“Boxing also gave us a good work ethic. You have to be very committed to the sport in order to be good because you need to work hard and train hard,” Sarah said. “That work ethic transfers over into everything else that we do.”

The girls used to attend Pilot Butte and Sage Elementary schools, respectively, but with their travel schedules Amanda and William Garrison decided home school was the route to go for the 2015-16 school year. The previous school year, the younger Garrisons missed almost every other Friday due to travel. William Garrison said his daughters were the weird home school kids in the beginning but both girls seem to be flourishing in their new environment.

The girls attend school through Connection Academy, where they both maintain perfect grade-point averages. The Garrison sisters said they love online schools because of the ability to work ahead. The pace is catered to them.

Both girls are scholars. Sarah wants to be an electrical engineer when she grows up, and Emily has her sights on being an architect. They would both also like to attend an Ivy League university or technical institute such as MIT or Cal Tech.

OLYMPIC DREAMS

In the 2012 Olympics, Team USA took 18 fighters to Beijing, China, and only three of them were women. Nevertheless, the two medals brought back to America were earned by women. For the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, it looks like three may be the magic number once again for the women. Two fighters have already qualified, and another has one more international competition approaching.

The Garrison sisters are too young for Rio to be an opportunity, but Sarah already has her sights on the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan. Emily will have to wait until 2024.

“We need to continue our training schedule. With enough training and experience we can get there,” Sarah said.

The USA Boxing Junior Olympic National Championship is just the first step for the Garrisons. At 16 years old, the girls will have the opportunity to compete in the Junior World Championship as well as the Pan American Games.

A desire to be the best people they can be is what pushes the sisters to be committed and give a constant 110 percent both in the ring and out.

“You have to work, you have to work very hard, and you have to commit,” Emily said. “But after - that feeling of bringing home a trophy - it’s the best feeling in the world.”

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Information from: Rock Springs (Wyo.) Rocket-Miner, https://www.rocketminer.com

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