Meet Mandi Rodriguez
March 15, 2010
Oregon State senior Mandi Rodriguez is up to her old tricks again this year. The reigning Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year is fast approaching the end of her final season at OSU. Friday night, Rodriguez along with fellow seniors Laura-Ann Chong and Whitney Watson will compete at Gill Coliseum for the final time when they face Kentucky. Rodriguez will finish her career as one of the top gymnasts to ever come through Oregon State. She's already a four-time All-American, including three first team honors, which ranks behind only Joy Selig and Chari Knight, who earned first team All-America honors seven and six times respectively. Recently, Mandi took a few minutes to talk to Natalie Smith from OSU's Athletic Communications office:
When did you begin gymnastics?
'I started when I was seven. My sister actually started in gymnastics and I would go every day and watch her through the waiting room window. But I was too shy to do it. My mom bought me a leotard off the used rack and one day I was sitting there and her coach came and literally brought me out kicking and screaming and made me do the class. I cried and hated it but then I came back the next week.'
During your early years of being a gymnast did you know you would be competing at the level you are now?
'No, I had no idea. I had a lot of energy and it was something I was able to focus on and competing for me was the best part of the sport.'
How does it feel to compete in Gill Coliseum?
'It's indescribable. I swear that we have the best fans in the nation. They are so energetic and not only do they love our gymnastics but they are really good gymnastics fans. They cheer for everyone and you don't see that when you go to different arenas. They're especially great with the big meets, like the Pink Out when we had over 6,000 people, it was just amazing.'
What is your favorite event?
'I'd say my favorite is vault. It comes really naturally to me and it's over in like five seconds so you don't have to get nervous.'
Do you have any pre-meet rituals?
'I'm really superstitious but I've gotten a little better this year. I always wear the same meet day outfit. Since my freshmen year I've worn a shirt that says Beaver Believer and is really worn out because I wear it every meet day. I also listen to the same songs on my iPod as I walk up to the meet from changing into our competition leotards.'
What's your dream job?
'My dream job is actually to be a college gymnastics coach or something that has to do with working with student-athletes.'
Who is your favorite OSU athlete and why?
'I would say former baseball player Mitch Canham. Just because I know he had a lot of hardships and struggles in his personal life and the things he did while he was here, not only for his team but also for the community and for young people were so inspiring to me ... and he was a National Champion with his team so that's really cool.'
What has been your favorite class at OSU so far?
'I'm in exercise and sports science so one of the classes we had to take was Psychology of Sport and that class was just fascinating. There are a lot of components that you don't even think about while being an athlete and it's just kind of a different perspective. It's like you're watching things going on in sports and figuring out why people act the way they do so that's really interesting.'
What was your initial reaction when you were named the 2009 Pac-10 Gymnast of the Year?
'I was just shocked. Honestly I never saw that coming. Oregon State doesn't get recognition like that, it's usually between UCLA and Stanford. If it was any other girl on the team I would have been equally as happy, just to have our program recognized was a huge honor. It was amazing.'
What do you like to do on your days off?
'Sleep! I don't like to do school work but that's usually what I end up doing. I also like cooking and baking a lot. But mostly just catching up on sleep.'
Where's your favorite place to go on campus?
'My favorite building is Weatherford. I love it; I just think it's beautiful. When it gets sunny and nice I really like the MU Quad, especially in the spring when everyone is laying out and playing Frisbee. This spring I'll finally be able to be one of those people because I'll be done with gymnastics.'
What's your favorite and least favorite food?
'My favorite would be pizza, not very exciting but I love American Dream. I don't like tofu, I don't like the texture. It's weird, it has no flavor and I just can't do it.'
Is there a certain memory that stands out to you from past seasons?
'We hosted regionals my sophomore year and that was a great experience just because we were the second seed going into it and we just blew the first seed out of the water so that was really fun. A second one would be qualifying to the event finals with Tasha Smith as a freshman and we both competed on vault and it was a really great experience.'
How do you feel about the season so far?
'I think it's been going really well. We have a small group of girls, just 12 this year and most teams have an average of about 16, I think. We've had some injuries here and there but overall it's the most talented team I've been on since I've been here. It's also the most mentally strong. Our freshmen aren't fazed by anything. We have a lot of potential and we aren't even close to peaking yet so I think the rest of the season should just continue to get stronger from here.'