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.