The Awkward Years
By eighth grade I was at an all time high in my gymnastics career. I walked into the gym almost everyday and relished the smell of the chalk full air that most people would normally turn their nose up to. The carpeted floor felt natural on my bare feet, and my callused hands confirmed that I was working hard.
I grew accustomed to the constant aches and pains my body felt due to the beating it took with twenty-four hours of practice a week. I became a slave to the “ice bucket” having been introduced to it at a young age as my dad was (and still is) a huge supporter of this type of therapy.
After every practice my dad would fill a big bucket with ice and cold water and make me hold my feet in there for twenty minutes before taking them out. At first it was torture. Eventually, however, it got to the point where I did this voluntary because it made me feel so much better.
At thirteen years old I had reached Level 9 in the Junior Olympic program, just one level shy of the best of the best. I was a serious competitor at all of the regular season meets so by the time the State and Regional Championships came around, I was ready. I aimed for every Level Nine’s dream and goal: The Eastern National Championships.
At States that year I finished first on bars, earning the title of Massachusetts State Bars Champion and my All-Around score was wellover a 34.000 (the minimum score required to qualify for Regionals). I can still remember the confidence I had going into that meet. I wanted to make it to Eastern Nationals so badly, and qualifying for Regionals was my first step to getting there.
As Regionals was only a few weeks away I worked my butt off in the gym. I never skipped a practice, I never left early or showed up late. I knew what I wanted and nothing was going to get in my way. Only the top seven All-Around scores at Regionals would qualify for Eastern Nationals and I was determined to be as prepared as possible.
The Regional meet was a blur to me. Like most people under pressure I could feel the butterflies in my stomach, and my palms getting sweaty right before I went up to compete on each event. When the meet was over and it was time for awards I was in awe when I placed first in the Region on bars and sixth overall.
The realization hit me; I was one of seven girls in my age group from Region 6 (Νew England and New York) who would compete at the Level 9Eastern National Championships in Battle Creek, MI.
Eastern’s, was one of the most amazing experiences of my life to date. I was competing as one of the best gymnasts east of the Mississippi. I finished twelfth overall and although it wasn’t my best meet, that didn’t take anything away from the experience. I was now on the radar of Division 1 coaches. I would move to Level 10 in the Fall.
Like many young athletes who want to make it to the Olympics, my dream had changed from this to competing on a Division 1 college team. This new dream of mine was on its way to becoming a reality.
Unfortunately, the summer before my freshman year, my long season took its toll requiring me to make a life changing decision…