Veteran Walior Leads Young GymDawgs Into Opener
Jan. 7, 2010
By Zachary Gussin
As Samantha 'Sam' Walior began her run up to the uneven bars, it seemed as if the blue gymnastics mat she ran on was sloping downhill. What started as an exuberant approach ended as a sprint. She was over the shorter of the bars in an instant, reaching toward the higher of the two, wasting not a moment in using the excellent skills that earned her a team-leading 9.775 at the event in Washington's Dec. 11 intrasquad meet.
During her beam and floor events at the Dec. 11 meet, Wailor sports a black brace over her left knee. It looks almost like a lamenting armband, mourning the loss of half of her meniscus. When she competes now, the bones in her knee grind against each other, chipping off cartilage as they smash together. Even the tough and gritty Walior admits it hurts. But during competition, you'd be hard pressed to find a sign.
Walior would go on to post a team-high score in each of the three events she competed in at the meet. The junior is a born competitor and a well-versed entertainer. Her style is a meld between the cheerleader she was in high school, the dance she's been trained in, and the rapacious gymnastics that's among the best the deep UW team has to offer.
There is an element of performance in Walior's floor routine that authenticates the rest of her routine. Instead of the abrupt transition from the raw power of an intense aerial skill to a stiff, classical embellishment, Walior manages to maintain the same coursing energy throughout, something she describes as 'hard hitting.' There's a level of aggression, competition, and exhilarating dare-devilry that transcends her high-school cheerleading captain roots.
In a video of her routine online, you may notice that for an instant before her final skill, she pauses for two or three breaths. After a high-octane performance and building up unto the big finale, it isn't a fear of falling that invokes the nascent pause. It is, instead, a culmination and appreciation of what's ahead. She seems not anxious, but excited.
A good amount of her passion comes from the apprehensive nature of collegiate gymnastics.
'Counting all of my routines, I'm going to compete for a little under an hour this year,' Walior said. 'If you add up all the times, it comes up to about 50 minutes. To work for four months of preseason and three months of competition for an hour, it's an unreal feeling. I feel like I want to show everyone what I can do and help the team, but at the same time, you really have to enjoy it because you only get to do it 12 other times this year.'
Walior is one of four junior leaders who are bringing the UW's gymnastics team to unparalleled success. What excites Walior most about the outcome of the meet is how close the rest of the team was to her.
'This year, it's exciting that, on any given night, any of us could be top scorers,' Walior said.
Without a senior on the team, the juniors are serving as an ad hoc cabinet of sorts. Walior lauds coach Joanne Bowers' decision not to single out two women as captains, allowing the flexibility of having all four juniors as unofficial leaders.
'There's a couple of us juniors that are the moms of the team,' said Walior. 'They'll take care of everyone, make sure everyone has rides home. Then there are a couple of us who will kick people in the butt if they're not doing what they're capable of doing. I am one of the ones who kicks butt.'
Knowing just how much to push is one of Walior's greatest assets.
'She's so vocal, and she's never afraid to say, `You need to do this,'' said Bowers about Walior. 'She's never afraid to put herself out there, just like she does on floor exercise with dance.'
Though in years past she might have pushed too hard, this year both Walior and Bowers agree that the junior found a balance. Teammate Lauren Rogers, a freshman, can also attest to this.
'If Sam sees something going wrong, she'll help out the freshmen,' Rogers said. 'If she sees someone not doing that they're supposed to, she'll let them know. Just like in gymnastics, you'll always know she'll hit. She won't take a fall.'