Between the Bars

Sept. 14, 2005

Preseason With The Bruins

Our team reported last Wednesday, including our six freshmen, three of whom are a year younger than the others because they graduated early. So far it has been amazing. In the preseason, we concentrate a lot on basics and cross training. Along with gymnastics, we do an amazing pool workout, Boot Camp at Santa Monica Beach, work out at our UCLA track stadium, and I teach all sorts of different dance classes.

Last week, I gave them a ballet class and taught them the Little Swan part from Swan Lake. We really should have videotaped that class. It is so funny to see our athletes act like they are real ballerinas. Plus, in the Little Swan section, they have to dance as a foursome, arms crossed in front of each other, holding hands, then move in unison. Words cannot describe how funny it was.

Actually, though, that was not as funny as me learning how to breakdance. One of our freshmen, Ariana Berlin, has been dancing with Culture Shock as a hip-hop dancer and B-Girl (that would be breakdancing girl for us non-hip type). She is amazing. After our swimming session last week, we played a little circle-volleyball (we are pathetic at that as well, although we managed to keep the ball in the air for 46 volleys), and then Ari taught us how to breakdance. WHY did I think I could learn this? I went home that night moving like I was 146 years old.

We may look odd at times, but we are having a great time getting into shape.

Gymnastically, we've got a lot of talented athletes who have a lot of heart. From day one, they have acted and responded to training like a real TEAM. That's even more impressive when you consider half of our competitive team are freshmen.

Our upperclassmen returned in amazing shape. My proverbial hat is off to Michelle Selesky, who, over the summer, perfected the Yurchenko layout vault she learned last year and learned a double layout on the floor. She has literally blossomed into a full-fledged high-level athlete before our eyes.

Kate, Michelle, Peckett and Walker are all leading the charge. All came back stronger and healthier than they were last year, having worked out hard the entire summer, and on fire to have an amazing season.

Tasha and Jordan are both as beautiful as ever. It's interesting to see the transformation from freshmen to sophomores. They know what being a part of a team is all about now. Last year, they went with the flow, worked hard and supported their teammates. This year, they've jumped in with both feet from day one and have fully integrated with the heartbeat of UCLA Gymnastics.

It's been sad not seeing Lindsey Vanden Eykel's beautiful bar work in the gym, but she has come on strong as an undergraduate assistant coach. Her teammates don't know what's hit them after she's gotten through working with them on their handstand positions.

Jennifer Sutton is one of those people that every team should be lucky enough to have. She takes on every task we ask of her with enthusiasm and a thoroughness that is almost scary. She has been a tremendous help with Chris on vault, knowing everyone's vault and board settings and getting everything into place before Chris even asks her to do it. Speaking of Mr. Waller, he is doing great. He had heart surgery a month ago and is healing like a miracle man. He's also been extremely good at not overdoing it with regards to exerting too much energy in the gym. I have to keep reminding myself that he just had the surgery a month ago because he looks great.

Ashley Martin returned to us as our team manager with renewed zest after performing in the SeaWorld shows all summer. And Marshall Nelson keeps amazing us with his abundance of energy. He hasn't had a break in over a year because right after our season ended he started rehearsals for his part as 'Adam' in the Creation story that was presented by the Crystal Cathedral.

It's awesome having everyone back in Westwood. Our team has a uniqueness to it that is unlike any other team I've been a part of here. I'm not sure how to explain it or how it will play out. I'll keep you posted.

Stay tuned for our next BTB, where we showcase our awesome freshman class. Until then ... ah .. 5,6,7,8...

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