Natural Born Leader

March 9, 2005

By Lindsey Egelston

The Washington gymnastics team is full of energy, and sophomore Chelsea Bakken is no exception. Even while conditioning at the end of a three-hour practice, it is still not a challenge to find a smile on the Arizona native's face.

Bakken's attitude is often contagious and plays a major role in positively influencing her teammates. She likes to keep people entertained and upbeat, so she is often found singing or dancing around the gym.

'I'm really social, and really motivating,' Bakken says, 'I try to be positive all the time. If I see someone down, I'll just do a funny dance or say something funny to cheer them up.'

Her spunky attitude is obvious to her teammates, and it seems they find it helpful. Teammate Jennifer Chang points out that Bakken always has some random funny things to say and that the girls will often put on techno music during practice so that Bakken will show off her moves and lighten the attitude.

Her popularity with the team has translated into a leadership role. Bakken, who has already been named next year's team captain, thinks of herself as a natural born leader.

Bakken's leadership skills were first recognized at the club level. 'One of my club coaches said, `Yeah, she has definite leadership skills,' and I think they realized that here and so they made me captain next year.'

With her strong leadership skills and positive attitude Bakken's personality has started rubbing off on the rest of the team.

'Compared to last year, I think this year the attitude is a lot better,' Bakken comments. 'This year everyone's gotten into cheering for each other, and I really think I've been an impact on that.'

The amusing gymnast thinks it's important to have fun with the sport everyday, but she also knows when to be serious. The perfect blend of these two qualities is what really makes her a strong gymnast.

Bakken has proven to be one of the key athletes on the team in just her second season as a Husky. She earned her first two individual titles on both vault and floor at California on February 18. Bakken thinks that her experiences as a freshman prepared her for her recent success.

'I just started out in a higher place this year. When I got first I was kind of surprised, but happy. It was exciting when I saw my name on the internet. I was like, `Oh, I did get first!''

Although getting two first-place scores was a great accomplishment for Bakken, most of her goals are team related. The Huskies have not been to the NCAA Championships since 1998. With Seattle hosting the Regionals, Bakken is confident that the Huskies have a strong shot at breaking their NCAA draught.

'I really think that we have a good chance of making it to Nationals,' Bakken says, 'and that's always my ultimate goal for the team.'

No matter what happens this year, Bakken will still want to improve for next year.

'Every year I plan on building. We'll have four of our seniors gone next year, and it'll be weird. I'll be captain and I just want to make sure that everything goes well. I'm a little nervous, but I'm ready for those challenges and it really motivates me for next year. I'm excited.'

With Bakken's enthusiasm for her team there's bound to be an exciting finish to this year's competition, and an impressive season next year.

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