STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (WJW) – One local teenager is disciplined well beyond her years in the sport of kickboxing. Now, she is taking her talents to Europe to compete in the 2022 Junior World Championships.
As she wraps her hands and readies for practice, 16-year-old Mekenna Vanyo of Brunswick knows each practice is important because this sport demands her full attention.
“It takes a toll on your cardio and your mental health because you have to have a good mental state of mind to be good at fighting,” Mekenna said.
Her powerful punches pound the heavy bag, held by her father and coach Mark Vanyo. They train almost every day at Vanyo Martial Arts in Strongsville.
“She literally gets home from school, gets a quick bite to eat, meets me in the basement, we do 15 rounds down there,” Mark said.
Then it’s time for more training, coaching and cardio.
“It has its ups and downs when we’re training,” Mekenna said. “He’ll give me a hard time, but I know it comes from the heart.”
Mark’s been coaching her since she was a toddler, watching her grow into a National Champion fighter.
“We got a call from the president of WAKO kickboxing and he said, ‘Hey, your daughter won nationals. We would like to have her represent the United States in kickboxing in Italy for Junior Worlds.”
Now Mekenna is out to showcase her skills on the international stage.
“Doing this since I was three, so for 13 years and I want to show my skills out to the world,” Mekenna said.
But not without a little help from her supporters. Team Vanyo setup a GoFundMe to help pay for their trip to Italy, which Mark estimates will cost around $20,000.
“That’s going to go to the travel cost, number one, the hotel, our traveling when we get to Italy, all our competition fees,” Mark said.
They crushed their initial fundraising goal of $5,000, but every bit will count toward helping Mekenna bring back a championship.
“I believe in myself that I can be the gold medalist.”