Between The Bars

April 25, 2006

The end of our 2006 season brings about a lot of feelings on both ends of the emotional spectrum. To say that this season was hard, tough, frustrating, and exhausting is true, but it doesn't mean that it was a negative experience or one that I would wish to erase.

Being at NCAA's this past week without our team was much more difficult than I anticipated. Congratulations to all of the teams and individuals that competed, and to the University of Georgia - they are an amazing team.

We are thrilled for Kristina and Kate for doing so well in the individual event finals. After Saturday night, we all felt like we had turned a corner and that we had started our next season with a bang. The inside scoop of Saturday night's performances is that Kristina Comforte competed the best vaults of this season. She had started the season competing a layout Podkopayeva (Yurchenko half on, layout front half off). We had to switch to a Yurchenko layout full after a few meets because she simply wasn't strong and fast enough to compete the first vault every weekend. Unlike a lot of freshman experiences, Kristina continued to improve physically all season. As her body got stronger and faster, her mind followed suit, and she was able to finish off her freshman year competing the vault she started her season with (the same one she competed last summer at the USA Championships).

For Kate, her story came full-circle as well. The last time Kate competed the Omelianchik was at the 2004 NCAA Vault Finals. This past fall, she was working that vault, missed her steps and crashed into the base of the horse, breaking her tibia. For the majority of the rest of our season, Kate wasn't able to train vault at all because of her strained tricep, so her training a 'second' vault the past few weeks wasn't an option. When she started warming up the Omelianchik Saturday night, she said her steps felt a bit weird, and for an instant she started to fear crashing into the horse again. She told me later that she simply told herself to 'stop it', it was stupid to think that way. She just did the vault the way she knew she could ... and it was beautiful.

On floor, our biggest concern was that Kate would compete to be 'perfect', versus allowing herself to just enjoy her gymnastics. The exclamation point she added in landing her last pass, a double pike, to absolute perfection, was the storybook ending to her amazing career. It was further punctuated by everyone in the stands not only clapping along to her floor routine, but chanting 'Kate, Kate, Kate' as she was walking out of the tunnel to receive her award. It depicted the universal impact she has had on all of us gymnastics fans. Kate Richardson is a perfect example of something I read this week: 'It's not what you think you are that matters, but simply what you think.' Kate doesn't sit around telling herself she's an amazing person and athlete; however she does think in the manner of a person/athlete of much character and integrity.

We have a lot to be thankful for this season - the most important thing is the feeling of 'success' that comes from working through difficult and frustrating times with people of equal heart, determination, and passion.

It's a new year, Bruins. Our plight last season has served to strengthen our passion and resolve for the coming year. Can you feel it 'Brewin'? (Sorry- I couldn't resist.)

I'm off to SeaWorld to work on their summer shows. Along with Maloney and much of last year's cast coming back, April Burkholder from LSU will be joining us this season.

I hope you all enjoy a joyful spring and summer. Excited about our future ...

~ miss val



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