February 14

Where To Go From Here

After my first college competition at Virginia Tech, I had a whole new view of gymnastics. Of course High School gymnastics was very team-oriented and I had my handful of teammates cheering me on, but college was something different.

Instead of about 10 teammates shouting for me, I had a mini army of 40 people yelling, “you got this” or “c’mon Julia”.  They were so loud I couldn’t hear myself think but I loved every second of it. In fact, it’s a great feeling knowing people are rooting for you and want you to succeed.

This encouragement from my teammates gives me confidence and spirit, making me feel unstoppable. It also makes  me love the sport again. Connecting with so many people that have the same interest as me in college made the adjustment to a new environment so much easier. Not only is it easy to relate to the girls, but the guys are just as fun and nice to have around at practice (as I’ve never practiced with guys before).

Anyways, when we came back from Virginia Tech everyone was ecstatic. We had done so well. Nobody imagined we would be winning first place. This turned out to be the best thing for the team as everyone got extremely motivated. Our next competition would be at James Madison University and everyone was ready to show the teams there who the real competition was.

Which, when it came time for the competition, was exactly what we did! Once again our Women’s and Men’s team both took first place. This time I even placed individually. In fact I placed third on vault and fifth on floor over everyone at the meet. You could say I was pretty excited. The only thing that could have made that weekend better would have been having my parents there.

It’s weird now, that after 15 years of competing they can’t make it to my competitions because they are so far away. Regardless though, I know they are just as proud of how well I’ve been doing.

With the JMU meet over all we have left for this season is our home competition in March and Nationals in April! Nationals is what I’m really looking forward too, as everyone tells me it’s a lot of fun because we will be spending 5 days in Fort Worth, Texas… Lets gooo.

In addition to this, with our recent wins everyone believes we have a strong chance of placing top 5 at nationals (as long as we keep up all of our hard work). As long as we remain dedicated and make the most of each practice, I think were have a good chance.

I really can’t wait to see how well this team does at both our home meet and nationals.

Anyways, I’m thankful for Penn State Club Gymnastics and can’t wait to see what the next 3 years of it bring to me once freshman year is over. Whether it be as a gymnast, on the executive board (maybe President of the club one day), or a coach, I am thankful for my club gym family.

As this is my 10th passion blog, I just want to thank everyone who has read and followed my journey throughout gymnastics.

February 8

A Fresh New Start

A summer without gymnastics. Up until the summer of 2017 I had no idea what that meant. Sure I had taken a week off for practice for a family vacation. Maybe 2 weeks if I was lucky. But a whole summer? A whole 3 months?

Well, there was a first for everything, and after 15 years of gymnastics this was the longest break I had ever taken. With this in mind,  it was much needed as well.

Although I was still working in a gym coaching classes, and the lower level girls I never really did escape the sport that summer. That’s probably why three months off from gymnastics felt like nothing. Although I go to do more that summer than any other, the middle of August approached quickly which meant I would be leaving for college for the first time.

I knew that Penn State had a club gymnastics team but I didn’t know much about it. I knew they practiced four times a week, which was a good amount of time to dedicate to a college sport. I also knew they had gone to nationals as well which sounded pretty cool.

And, believe it or not, after 3 months off I was itching to get back into the gym.

So, when it came time to go to the involvement fair I made a beeline for the club gymnastics stand. I HAD to find it in order to learn more about the team. After weaving through the maze of stands I eventually found it. I wrote my name down on a sheet of paper and someone immediately recognized my name. How ironic. In fact, the Vice President lived in the town next to me back home in Massachusetts. The town which had been our biggest rival in High School.

It wasn’t hard for her to convince me to do the team. As we got to talking, she told me when the first meeting/practice was so I was sure to show up there on time with my grips, wrist guards, and leotard at the ready. I was nervous to get back into it though. I kept thinking “what if I can’t do any of my skills anymore?’. But I soon found out that no matter how much time I took off, my body would always remember how to do the skills I spent countless hours practicing. In other words it was like knowing how to ride a bike. You may not ride one for months but as soon as you get back on its like just yesterday you were last on it.

The first week of practice was probably the most fun because I got to learn the names and personalities of everyone on the team. With 50+ teammates this took quite some time. However, it ended up being the best way for me to meet new people and have plans after coming to a completely new school!

My teammates soon became my best friends and the people I related to the most, as many of them were in the same position as me. AKA, Gymnasts who dedicated their entire lives to the sport.

So with what we discovered was a strong freshman class, everyone was very excited for our first competition that would be taking place at Virginia Tech in November. In fact we were so goos that both our Women’s and Men’s teams won! And while I only did vault, bars, and floor all my scores contributed to the team and did well for myself at my first college level competition.

January 30

The Final Show

In my last blog I left off at the end of our first day of competition at Nationals. Next up, how well I did, and how well Team Massachusetts did.

As a team, we had a very strong day with some high scores on all events, so we knew we would definitely be one of the top five teams. But we wouldn’t find out how well we really did until the whole competition was over.

We now had to wait for the announcers to list the individuals who would be competing in the event finals. The top 10 scores on each event would be coming back to compete again and everyone was nervous for a spot. As a team we gathered in a circle and waited patiently for our names to be called out.

I waited, holding my breath, hoping to hear my name called, and finally it happened. I was called back for bars and floor! This was a really big deal. There was a lot of excitement and disappointment as some girls got a spot to compete again and some didn’t. We left the arena in our parade of black SUVs, and headed for the hotel.

It was 85 degrees and sunny and we were all ready to take advantage of the beautiful beach right outside our hotel. We spent the rest of the day enjoying ourselves and then had a big team dinner until the girls who were still competing turned in early for bed.

The next morning I woke up, performed my routine of getting ready and made my way to what would be my last high school competition ever- no pressure. This day of competition meant a lot because I wanted to do well for myself, and leave high school gymnastics on a high note.

And that’s what I did. I went to bars first and performed a routine that was even better than the day before. I could see how proud my mom was of me all the way from up in the stands.

I went to floor and took it all in. The fans cheering, my teammates yelling “c’mon Julia!”, and my coach’s excited look. I went out there and gave it all I had. My routine was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Surrounded by my teammates who were congratulating me I looked at my mom one more time. I knew I made her proud. And my dad too, even though he wasn’t able to make it.

I sat down in a circle one more time with my teammates and waited for the awards. They announced vault first and then bars, my hands were getting sweaty. They called fifth place, then fourth and then my name at third! I ranked third on bars nationally! I was so excited. I waited through beam and then it was time for floor. I placed sixth in the nation! I thought that was it and my hard work was over but then they announced they would be doing all-around awards.

Did I have a chance to medal in the All-Around too?

Turns out I did! I placed fourteenth overall. I was so proud of myself, I never imagined placing so high at a national competition.

It wasn’t over, because we had team awards. My teammates and I locked arms, and as they called out fifth, and fourth place we knew we were top 3. And third place we were! We jumped up and grabbed out medals, filled with excitement.

Never could I have imagined walking away from a national competition with not just one, but four medals. It was proof that if you work hard enough for something, in the end you will get what you deserve.

I left Fort Myers, Florida proud of how well I did and with some of the greatest experiences and memories I will every have.

It’s also then that I knew I wasn’t quite ready to give up gymnastics.

January 21

Nationals Part One

March and April passed in a blur. With the end of senior year approaching, and Nationals coming up quickly, I was powering through my academic work for school and training hard almost every day.

May came up quickly, so on Thursday the 18th at 5 am in the morning, my bags were packed and the car was loaded for my trip to the airport. My mom and I would be making the trip to Fort Myers, Florida for a weekend of competition and memories. Not only was I excited but I was ready. Prepared. This was once again my time to shine.

I was a bundle of nerves and excitement on the plane waiting impatiently for it to land so I could be united with my coaches, and my 15 other teammates, who would all be representing the state of Massachusetts.  

Once it finally landed I was rushed to the facility where each state was given time to practice, and test out the equipment we would be using for the next 2 days of competition. I had a solid practice. Making sure I didn’t overdo it, I got done everything I needed to do to make sure my body would be well enough for not just one day of competition, but two (hopefully).

As the first day of competition is meant for the team, this means that the top 5 scores from each event for a State contribute to the states total team score. The state with the highest total team score wins.

The second day of competition, event finals, includes the athletes who received the top 10 scores on each event. In other words not every gymnast is guaranteed to compete the second day.

Stressful, yes.

We left practice in a parade of black SUVs like we were special people and made our way back to the hotel. A hotel with a beautiful view of the ocean, and access to the white sand beaches.

A nice getaway from the repetitive life I had been living in Massachusetts.

But that night was not a night for adventure. Instead, we were sent to bed early that night so we could get a good night’s sleep before the long day of competition we were about to go through. So, Friday morning I woke up excited, put my new leotard on, added some glitter to my hair, and a tattoo of Massachusetts on my face and was ready.

Once we all arrived at the facility, we learned how we were starting on bars and that’s when I knew I was about to rock this competition. How better to start then on one of my best events?

Our coaches knew this was my best event and put me last in the order, like I had been so many times before, so I could end us strong on our first event.

And I did. I Scored a solid 9.550, a fantastic score.

We went to beam, and I managed to stay on this time! We made our way to floor and I again scored a 9.550! I finished up on vault and landed both of them for a very strong all- around score.

As I’m running out of room on this blog, in order to find out if I qualified for the event finals and how well team Massachusetts did you’ll just have to read my next blog…


January 17

It’s All About The Attitude

An athlete’s attitude going into a practice, a game, or even competition can determine the success of the athlete.

Your attitude affects the way you perform in a way that will help you and bring you to the gold.  Or it can bring you down and lead you to some of your worst performances.

Unfortunately I learned this first hand.

In my last blog I had just finished writing about how I won the All-Around, Bars, and Floor in my Massachusetts State Championship competition. My journey, however, did not end there.

I had qualified to travel to the New England Regional Championships, which included the best of the best from all of New England and New York.

I was not excited about this competition as it had a bad reputation for being poorly run, and with my back causing me more pain than it ever had before, I was not looking forward to competing. Since I had already been picked to join the Massachusetts Senior National Team competing in May and New England’s was the end of February, my body and my mind were dying for a break after four long months of competing.

I had a week to prepare for the competition but my mind was not in it. This, as I would learn, would be one of my biggest mistakes.  As my coach and I arrived at a local high school in Connecticut on a chilly, snowy, Saturday morning, our mood was tired and not ready.

Looking back I ask myself why I wasn’t more excited for such a big competition as it was an honor to qualify for it. To this today I regret not going in with a better attitude.

At any rate, we arrived at the meet and I started on bars. This was good, this wasone of my strongest events. So when I clapped my hands together and a cloud of chalk exploded from them I thought I was ready. I turned and saluted the judges.  The routine was over in about 45 seconds, but I had fallen once and hit my feet on the floor during one of my skills. I hadn’t done that all season and as a result received the lowest score of my season.

I went to beam next, and once again fell during my routine. I didn’t even want to look in the stands for my parents, wanting to avoid their disappointed faces.

After two bad events I was ready for a come back on floor. So I pulled it together and did a nearly perfect routine receiving a great score.  Last, however, was vault, where I pulled off one mediocre vault and then fell on my second one.  With the meet over I received my lowest all-around score of the season, when it should have been the opposite.

My parents weren’t disappointed because of how badly I did, but because of the mindset I entered the meet with. I could have fallen five times on all events and my parents would still have been proud as me as long as I went in with a good attitude.

Although this was not a highlight of my senior year season I did learn a very valuable and important lesson. So because of this I was even more ready to go to Nationals so I could prove just how much I deserved to be there.

November 13

Senior Year

Senior year. The year that was suppose to be the best year of my life.

It started out like no other, dealing with gymnastics problems that seemed never-ending. Having lost our entire starting lineup to graduated seniors, as Captain, I had the responsibility of recruiting freshmen to bolster our team.

My worry only increased as I began to doubt my coach, who had just opened up her own gym. Attempting to run a business AND coach a team was not going well. My doubt grew when she told me, “the team is not a priority for me this year”.  Imagine having your coach tell you she doesn’t care about you or your team. I couldn’t contain the feelings I felt for her after she told me that. Resentment, sadness and disappointment flowed through me.

I wasn’t going to let this get to me and I especially wasn’t going to let her hurt my team. So while she wasn’t there for the new freshmen, I was. I coached them through new skills and perfecting old ones. By the end of the season they were unrecognizable.  We even improved our team score by seven points by the last meet which is a HUGE increase in gymnastics.

At this point I was not only enjoying our team success but my own individual success as well.   Massachusetts holds an Individual State Championship for high school gymnasts and I qualified to compete for the All-Around title. With the second highest all-around average in the state I was also ranked #2. Unfortunately the girl that was ranked first had an average all-around higher than my highest all-around… only a little intimidating.

However with a strong and confident mindset I was ready to take on this girl.  This was going to be the meet where all the stars finally aligned. I was going to take home the gold.

Three hours of competition went by in a blur. I started on bars (my best event) and executed a solid routine with a stuck landing. I moved on to beam and managed not to fall! Finally I made my way to floor and vault where I again performed some of my best routines.

By the time awards started real nerves set in. I grew excited when they announced I won both Bars and Floor- State Champion for not one event, but two!! Finally, the all-around awards.  I was shaking. I knew I stood a good chance of winning the gold. They announced third and second place. But not my name. They announced first place and…IT WAS ME.

I couldn’t believed it. I stumbled up to the podium with tears in my eyes, looking out for my parents who were crying too because they were so proud of me.  All of my hard work, dedication and perseverance had paid off. I deserved this. I deserved being the 2017 Massachusetts State All-around Champion.

By far, the best part was being able to hug my parents afterwards. Knowing how happy and proud they were of me topped any award I could have gotten. They supported me and stayed by my from the moment this rollercoaster ride with gymnastics started and I could be any luckier.

So I owe them the biggest thanks out there.

And for all the people out there that have read my blog, I want you to know that I didn’t stop there, that I have continued with Penn State Club Gymnastics and am having the time of my life.

October 13

High School Years

Injury. Every gymnasts worst nightmare.

The summer before my freshman year, my long season took its toll. Always plagued by back issues, they became so severe that my sports orthopedic forced me to sit out the season. Months of physical therapy and rest didn’t help. Repeated comeback attempts failed. Finally my doctor confronted me with the fact that with two bulging discs, arthritis in my spine and a pre-stress fracture, he couldn’t recommend that I continue my rigorous practice schedule.

I was devastated. I was being told I had to give up all I had worked and sacrificed for just when I was reaching the top.  

So the decision of my life was on the line. Continue with the Junior Olympic program but risk facing back pain for the rest of my life or drop down to the less competitive High School team and keep my body healthy.

I weighed the pros and cons of each for days.

Our High School Varsity team was a completely different world from what I knew. It demanded less hours, less pressure, but was more team oriented and would allow me to get more involved with my school. On the other hand, JO was what I knew. It gave me my teammates who turned into my life long friends, and my coaches who became my second parents and who I still ask for advice to this day.

In the end though, I had to do what was right for my body. I had to put aside my dream of competing for a D1 team (as college coaches don’t look at high school gymnasts) and joined my town’s High School varsity team as a sophomore.

High school sports was a whole new world. I was able to compete with my high school friends, enjoy pasta parties, bus rides, and team spirit. I no longer had to travel 45 minutes to go to practice and I was home much earlier than the 10pm I was used to. Our practices took place in our very own gym, and although we had to set up and break down the equipment everyday once we got into a rhythm it was quick and easy.

Once we started actually competing my love for high school gymnastics grew even more. I loved hearing my teammates cheer me on during my routines. It alway gave me that extra bit of energy so that I could perform to the best of my abilities.

In fact, to this day,  I can still remember my first high school competition as it took place in the very gym I started my career in (weird!). It’s funny how some things can come full circle like that.

At any rate, I was very proud to contribute to the success of my team. Both my sophomore and junior years we won our League Championships, placed Second at the State Championships and qualified for the New New England Regional Championships.

Little did I know by the end of my junior year that my senior year of competition season would be my most successful. After yet again more change senior year, my accomplishments would definitely make it all worth it…


September 27

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…


September 18

Early Stages

By fourth grade I had already entered a world of serious competition. Club gymnastics was no joke. As part of the Junior Olympic program, or “J.O.” as we like to call it, I was practicing up to sixteen hours a week at ten years old. I had no problem with these hours. I drove my parents crazy asking when I could go to practice. I wanted to be in the gym all the time.

This last year of elementary school however,  was also a time of drastic change. My coach, who had trained me since I was three years old, bought his own gym forty-five minutes away from my house. I had a huge decision to make. I could follow him and make a forty-five minute commute five times a week. Or I could stay at the gym where I had always trained and was only a quick five minute trip from my house.  

As I would later learn, but could not understand as a ten year old, this choice would impact my life more than anything. At the time, however, the decision seemed easy. Of course I would follow my coach.

My parents supported me in my decision, for which I was grateful.  After all they had a huge part in it, too, since they would be doing the long drive to and from practice almost daily as I couldn’t drive myself. The only condition they put on me was that my grades and health could not deteriorate because of my rigorous schedule. If they saw this happening we would reevaluate the decision.

Yet as the years went by my teachers continued to rave to my parents about my time management skills and how well I kept up with my classes. My grades stayed strong. It wasn’t easy having only two hours everyday in between the time I came home from school and the time I had to leave for practice. Four of the five school nights I wouldn’t even get home until 10 pm.

I made it work, however.  This commute taught me many lessons. It taught me the importance of getting things done and not procrastinating. It taught me determination and perseverance so that I never gave up no matter how stressed or tired I got.

I’m extremely grateful for understanding the meaning of tough love. No matter how frustrated my coaches got with me or how hard they had tobe on my teammates and me, I always knew it was only because they wanted us to be the best that we could be.

Through the years I sacrificed birthday parties, sleepovers, and after school playdates so that I could spend time in the gym and focus on my next competition. It was worth it.  I loved competing. I lived for that moment right before I saluted the judges, when my stomach fluttered with butterflies. In this moment, which felt like an eternity but in reality lasted less than a minute, all eyes were on me and stayed on me as I performed my routines.

For the next few years my life held this same routine of sleep, eat, school, practice, compete, repeat. Soon enough though all my hard work was about to pay off. 


September 5

Mommy& Me

With a big leap I entered a world of blue. This was my favorite place. My favorite part of my hour long practice. Playing in the foam pit. All around me the blue blocks lay waiting for me to comfortably fall on.

At age 3 there was nothing I looked forward to more than getting to jump in or having my coaches throw me onto the blocks. Some kids dreaded the pit. Since the blocks were bigger than most at this age, it was easy to keep falling deeper and deeper into a place that seemed bottomless. I, however, was unafraid. I was fearless at this age.

Eventually, when it was time, getting out was a difficult task. Every step up and out was harder than the last, as the blocks kept falling on me, until finally, I would feel a pair of warm comforting hands lift me up. I would look up to my mom, always there to help. Grabbing her hand I dragged her from event to event in, what at the time, seemed like the biggest gym in which I had ever practiced gymnastics.

Even at such a young age my favorite event was the bars. With the help of my coaches I would swing back and forth like a monkey, giving my mom a heart attack every time.

I would place my hands deep inside the chalk bucket until they were painted white with the powder. Clapping my hands together I would smile and laugh when the chalk exploded around me. Sometimes I would even give my mom a nice big hug and run away laughing because I had put handprints on her back that she didn’t know about.

Another favorite place of mine was the tumble track. Bouncing up and down I would momentarily feel like I was flying. When it wasn’t my turn I was always impatiently waiting for when I could go up again and show my mom just high how I could jump.

Sometimes I would fall. Back then I didn’t know the risks in falling, either. I didn’t know the true dangers of what I was doing in my little three year old brain. But every time I fell I always got back up. This determination would carry me through my career in gymnastics.

At the end of every practice my fellow classmates and their parents wouldgather around and sit in a circle. All the young girls and boys sitting in the comfort of their parents laps. I dreaded this part. I knew this meant one thing, that practice was over.

Don’t get me wrong I love my mom very much but I was never ready to leave.

My parents and coaches noticed my love and ambition for this sport right away. I was a strong, and, as I said before, fearless toddler who had found a passion in a demanding and time-consuming sport. At such a young age there was no way to tell how big a role gymnastics would play in my life, but as the years started flying by I soon learned all my lessons, values and skills from the sport.