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Sierra High junior takes first for age at state

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Video of Sierra High junior Julian Semenza performing yo-yo tricks.


POSTED March 16, 2013 1:52 a.m.

Julian Semenza is an artist.

He doesn’t spend hours in front of an easel with pastels or oil paints, and it isn’t a sketch book that takes up most of his time.

But if you hand Semenza a yo-yo – yes, a yo-yo – the Sierra High School junior is absolutely mesmerizing with a quiver of tricks that run the gamut from wild flipping loops to intricate string manipulation that seems downright impossible.

Last weekend Semenza took first place in his age group at the California State Yo-Yo Competition in Sacramento for what he calls “the ladder” – the escalation of up to 25 tricks that are called out on-the-spot by a judge that determines whether or not they qualify to move up to the next on the list.

He’ll compete in the Regional Competition in San Francisco in May before taking his skills to Chico later this year for Nationals, squaring off against some of the best in the world in the city that houses the National Yo-Yo Museum.

“It gets really crowded when you’re there,” Semenza said. “They blast music and a lot of the people do their tricks to music. There are professionals from around the world that are there. I go to each one – they’re a lot of fun.”

While most kids Semenza’s age would reach into their backpack and pull out the latest Xbox game, his houses an assortment of Yo-Yos from a variety of manufacturers – each one made of polished metals like aluminum and each one having different attributes that make it great for certain tricks.

His go-to is the SuperNova – the signature model of professional and World Champion Tyler Severance – that he puts through the paces on a regular basis. Practicing more than an hour every day, Semenza is always working on new tricks and inventing new ones in his pursuit of perfection.

And when you ask him about the hardest trick he’s quick to answer.

“The hardest trick is always the one that you’re working on,” he said with a laugh. “It gets frustrating when you’re trying to learn something that’s really hard, but you’ll keep practicing and suddenly you’ll hit it and it feels amazing – all of the hard work that you put in paid off.

“Then you have to work on getting it down regularly. It’s just a good feeling when you get to that point.”

10 tricks

Initially it was Semenza’s grandfather that introduced him to the hobby when he showed the then 12-year-old some introductory tricks that serve as a launchpad for his teenage interest.

Before too long he had them all down and was dazzling friends with his skills, and has been honing them ever since.

In the eyes of his mother, Tina Carmona, yo-yoing has been a great way for her son to stay involved with something that keeps him occupied during the crucial years when kids often want to rebel and find their own path.

“Kids from the neighborhood start coming over wanting to see the tricks that he can do,” Carmona said. “And last year he entered the talent show at school, and I was a little bit hesitant at first – kids can be pretty cruel at this age and it isn’t like they see yo-yoing very often.

“But they couldn’t believe the tricks that he could do and that was really cool to see. You could tell that he enjoyed being up there and knowing that everybody was very accepting.”

The unicycle and the juggling act

Yo-yoing isn’t the only thing that Semenza has tackled that’s abstract and different than what most people would consider “normal” for a teenager to be involved with.

On a whim he purchased a unicycle from Anderson’s Mower and Bike. He taught himself how to ride it by holding on to the side of a truck – eventually being able to let go and cruise around on his own.

And to say he stood out was an understatement.

“I kind of stopped riding it because people would always be looking at me,” he said, adding that his friends have also taken up the hobby. “It’s fun though. I like it.”

The juggling, however, helped the hand-eye coordination needed to pull off some of the more intense yo-yo tricks that he has mastered and others that he’s constantly working on. While his tricks may dazzle the uninitiated, he’s constantly watching YouTube videos of the world’s best and aspires to have the prowess that they possess.

Even with lofty goals and ambitions, it’s the simple things that Semenza still enjoys.

“There’s always something else you can be working on,” he said. “I’d like to work to be sponsored at some point in the future, and I want to keep doing this.

“I love it when somebody sees me do this and their jaws drop. They’re amazed and they want to know how I just did what I did. It’s a good thing to be able to show off to people, and it’s something that I don’t want to give up on.”

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