Ana Wiggins Barras fell in love with gymnastics at the age of 5. So enamored of the sport was the youngster that when she wasn’t at the gym, she was walking on her hands throughout her house.
Ana began her competitive gymnastics career at the age of 8 and would compete at the club level throughout her high school years. An outstanding athlete, she also swam in the Baton Rouge summer league during her elementary through high school years and ran track in middle school.
Ana entered St. Joseph’s Academy excited to participate in high school athletics. Like many high schools at the time, SJA didn’t have a gymnastics team, so Ana joined the swim team and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. But juggling swimming, year-round club gymnastics and schoolwork proved daunting, and Ana knew it was time to choose the one sport on which she’d focus. Given her passion for gymnastics, the decision was easy.
During a physical education class early in her sophomore year, Ana was approached by her teacher, Brenda LeBlanc, who was also the coach of SJA’s volleyball team. Brenda noticed Ana’s athleticism and asked if she had any interest in volleyball. Ana politely responded that gymnastics was her one-and-only sport.
Ana would continue to compete and enjoy success at the club level. During practice sessions, Ana overhead teammates talking about a high school gymnastics meet. Ana knew the Louisiana High School Athletic Association sanctioned girls’ gymnastics, and the thought of representing one’s high school was intriguing.
Following the state meet in the spring of 2002, Ana’s club teammates couldn’t stop talking about how much fun they’d had. Ana decided to explore the possibility of establishing a gymnastics team at SJA.
Since approaching Ana about her interest in volleyball, Coach LeBlanc had kept up with her gymnastics career, never missing an opportunity to ask how she’d performed in her most recent meet. It was only natural that Ana would turn to Brenda for help.
Before her senior year, Ana met with Brenda to ask if she would be willing to serve as the sponsor for a new gymnastics team. Ana had already talked to her club coach, Robbie Banta, who was on board to coach her as a competitor in the LHSAA state meet.
Brenda agreed and approached the school’s administration on Ana’s behalf. Within days, Ana was the founding member of SJA’s first gymnastics team. Two Academy freshmen, Sarah Bankhead and Kaki Whitty, who were members of Ana’s club team, joined as well.
Entering the 2003 LHSAA gymnastics meet, Ana remembers knowing nothing about protocol or procedures. But the Redstickers competed to the best of their abilities and, despite not having enough gymnasts to vie for a team title, finished second in their division.
Entering Louisiana State University, Ana left her competitive gymnastics career behind. But her coaching career was just beginning. In 2008, Ana returned to SJA as the assistant gymnastics coach and took over as head coach in 2009. In her three years as head coach, Ana’s Redstickers captured two LHSAA State Gymnastics Championships.
Today, Ana is a physical therapist assistant. She and her husband, Jeff, live in Walker with their children, daughter Hadley, 3, and son Beau, 1. Ana has two stepchildren: Blaine, 16, and Abby, 12.