So I finally have time to catch up on my blog posts because, guess what?! I am done with college!!!!! Classes, that is. Thursday was my last ever studio and I just turned in the last assignment for it!
This post will be about my last ever Nationals. Held in Daytona Beach, Florida from April 10th to the 14th.
Day 1: We Made It
We arrived on a sunny afternoon. It was humid. We’d driven four hours to the airport in DC, flown for two hours or so, and drove (thanks to my parents) an hour and a half to our hotel. It was a lot of travelling, but luckily, the girls didn’t compete until 5:00 PM the next day. We took a rest in the room, then went out to find food. None of this is very exciting, so I will skip to the next day.
Day 2: Prelims
The boys competed at 8 AM so even though we didn’t compete until 5 PM, I was still up to watch them compete. I always enjoy watching the men’s competition, even though I have almost no idea what is going on. I guess that’s how everyone else feels when I compete. After the competition was over, I hung out with my parents for a bit. We took a walk along the “boardwalk” which was actually concrete. (I have a few beefs with the layout of this town but I will not get into them now). Anyway, we walked to the end of this pier and watched the fishermen reel in their catch. I looked over and saw what I’m pretty sure was a shark! Very exciting, although I probably shouldn’t have yelled “shark.” Some guy said it sounded like a Dogfish shark.
After seeing the shark, it was time to get ready for the meet. I drank a v8, ate a banana, and put on my lucky banana socks. I’ve been wearing these socks since middle school. They are riddled with holes, some of which I tried to sew up. I was pretty darn nervous considering I had only been practicing for one semester since I was in Germany for the fall and didn’t know if I was back in good enough shape to do all the things. Also, I was worried that I wouldn’t make it to finals and this preliminary meet would be the last meet of my life. But I tried very hard not to think about that. Good thing it went well. I made all my routines and finished with the top all around for my session. Not too shabby! The rest of the team did ok, but I don’t think we had very high hopes for making it to finals. In the evening, we ate BBQ with a few fiends and parents. Then, Ashley and I walked on the beach and played ukulele.
Day 3: Walking in the Woods
My parents are literally the best. They have attended almost all except two or three meets of my whole college career. I hung out with them for most of our day off.
We drove a little ways to a state park where we saw a very old live oak (500 years old!). Then walked around and enjoyed the plants and the lizards.
At 10 PM we had a group meeting because somehow A team made it to finals and we had to decide on lineups. This is always a stressful and emotional process. In prelims, we can put eight girls up on an event, but in finals, only five girls compete so we have to cut two girls from each event. This means, we have to decide if we want to plan our lineups so that we have the best chance of winning or if we want everyone to compete what they want. As you can imagine, these two things don’t always align and we end up with unhappy people. So that took a while. Eventually, everything got (mostly) figured out and we all went to bed. Oh also, I had personally qualified to finals for bars, beam, floor, and all-around.
Day 4: Finals and Banquet
Finals is always exciting because there are so many of us and everyone is hyped up and it’s just a fun time. We marched in and stood there as they announced all of the different colleges and universities. It took quite a while. Then, as with every sporting event, it was time for the national anthem. But this was no ordinary national anthem. It was the national anthem played live on the harmonica. Definitely the best national anthem I’ve ever heard in my many years of competing. Before competition started, we were set to break a world record for the most back tucks done at one time. It took a while to get everything organized but in the end, we had like 500 people do it. Pretty exciting! Finally, it was time to compete.
I had a solid meet, but nothing super spectacular. I made a little mistake on bars which I am still quite upset about since it was my last bar routine ever. On top of that, my scores seemed lower. At least, all my scores were at least three points lower than in prelims. We started on bars and finished on vault. On vault, a gymnast gets two chances. I absolutely hate vault and am pretty well-known for only ever doing one vault. “One and done” is my motto. But unfortunately for me, my first vault was absolutely terrible. Not wanting 20 years of gymnastics to end with the ugliest vault of all time, I had to do another. It was much better! But just like that, it was over. I got a big hug from my parents which made me tear up just a little. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to (as is often the case) but I hit all my routines.
The banquet went about as well as every other time I guess. Most everyone (except Ashley and I) showed up late and clearly, um… without all their faculties. Unlike all the other years which had buffet-style service, this year they brought the food to you. Salads, bread, and desserts were already on the tables when we arrived which was nice. But it took a while for dinner to show up. My buddy Nate – talented gymnast and all-around nice dude – went around to all the tables taking their desserts while we waited for the main course. Finally, dinner came out. A little later than it probably should have, awards started. It was a long process. Longer than any other year because they added what is called the “community” division which is the new division that the alumni compete in so they are not competing with current students. As awards dragged on, the crowd thinned dramatically. Our people had to leave for one reason or another (you can speculate as to what those reasons were). And, of course, the divisions that I and my friends competed in were last. Our men’s team snagged a few individual awards which was exciting. I knew my scores were not good enough to place on the events but could still have a shot at all-around. At the end of a three-hour awards ceremony, I got called for 6th place in the all-around! I ran up and accepted my award and walked off and back to our seat. Level 9 team was next and we were pretty convinced that we weren’t placing. But, oh! PLOT TWIST. They called our name! There were a few of us left to accept the award. We were screaming and laughing at the hilarious situation.
After a crazy and drawn-out night, it was all over. I’m so very happy that my gymnastics career of 20 years ended with a bang.
I’d just like to thank all the people who helped and supported me along the way. You guys are all amazing 🙂 Gymnastics has been a large part of my identity for a great deal of my life and it’s weird that it’s over. Thanks to my many coaches who were incredibly patient (most of the time) and never gave up on me. Thanks to my parents and my poor sister for driving me to practice and coming to all my meets, even the boring ones when every gymnast did the exact same routine. Thanks to all my friends at Penn State club gym for general awesomeness and making me want to go to practice every day.