NAIGC Nationals 2018: Texas, Y’all

This year, Club Gymnastics Nationals was held in Fort Worth, Texas. We left at 9:15 Wednesday (the 11th) and drove to the Pittsburgh airport where we (thankfully) had a direct flight to the DFW airport. TSA security was slow, per usual and the airport food was expensive and as good you’d expect. We got to our hotel by six or seven and checked in. While unpacking, I noticed an interesting fountain across the street from our hotel. Me and my friend Ashley decided to investigate…

What it turnened out to be was this insane and kinda dangerous looking water installation that was part of the Fort Worth Gardens.


There were other pools and water features, including on that had cypress trees planted around the edge. Their knobby knees stuck up around the planting holes and had migrated to the edge of the pool.

After our exploration, we went over to the convention center for the open gym. That’s always hectic because its a free-for-all and getting an open spot on the equipment is difficult. I basically did like three skills on each event and was done. We walked around downtown looking for something to eat after our workout but it was like 10 o’clock and everything was closed so we settled on splitting a sixteen dollar pizza from the hotel.


Here’s how nationals works (if you already know just skip this paragraph): There are three days of competition. Days one and two (Thursday and Friday) are preliminaries aka ‘prelims’ where everyone in every level gets to compete their events. The two days is because there were over a thousand and something gymnasts competing and fitting everyone in to one day would be impossible. There are three different levels of competition for the womens competition: Level 9 (my level, also know as the “A team”), Level 8 (we have two level 8 teams. They are our “B” and “C” teams), and level 6 (we don’t have any competing at this level and the don’t have finals). Each level of competition has different requirements and is judged differently. Level 9 is the harder and level 6 is easier. After prelims are over, the top scoring competitors on each event, all-around, and top 6 teams qualify for finals which are always held on Saturday.

Anyway, the A team session was the first to go at 8 AM. Our hotel didn’t serve continental breakfast becuase its guests aren’t important enough to have free food. Luckily, I came prepared. I brought a bag of oats and a little container of butter and brown sugar to make oatmeal. There were no bowls or microwaves in the room but I had brought my collapsible bowl and heated it up in the microwave in the lobby.

The competition went pretty well. Beam was a struggle (but honestly, when ISN’T it a struggle). I got a PR 9.675 on bars which was super exciting! In the afternoon, the guys team competed and B and C teams competed in the evening. It was a long day. Luckily, I got to sneak away with my family+logan+visiting aunts and uncle to have lunch at The Red Wasp. I had a catfish poboy which was delicious (but not quite as delicious as the one I had in New Orleans).

Day Off

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My day off started by sneaking in to breakfast at the Hampton Inn where my family was staying. They had waffles in the shape of Texas.

After breakfast, we went to the Fort Worth Botanical Garden. (Logan was off in Dallas talking to a landscape architecture firm).

The gardens were nice. I took some pictures. There were some cute turtles sitting on a log that made me happy.


We picked up Logan and drove to Lake Dallas to hang out with my mom’s aunt and uncles. That was pretty cool. Intermittent thunder continually interrupted our conversations about gardening. On the way home it started to downpour and hail.

We got back to Fort Worth and decided to go to the Stockyards for a Texas barbecue dinner. Ashley tagged along. The place we ate as was called Coopers Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. As you entered there were options for various types and amounts of meats. Half chicken. Brisket. Chopped beef. I got a pulled pork sandwich. This was definitely the best barbecue I’ve had in a very long time. It was messy, and flavorful, and juicy and delicious. Great now I’m hungry. Afterwards, we wandered around the stockyards and looked at the long horn cattle with their long horns.

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A team had a meeting at 10 PM to decide on our line-ups for finals because, oh yeah by the way, A TEAM MADE FINALS WHAAAAT. (Line-ups just means picking who we want to compete for each event. These are strategically chosen to maximize our overall team score. In finals, we had five girls up on each event and three scores counted). But before the meeting, Ashley and I decided to jam out on our ukuleles over by the Water Gardens. Eventually, the wind picked up and the pollen prevented us from keeping our eyes open so we decided to head back in.

As is always the case, choosing lineups is stressful. You don’t want to kick anyone off an event but you also want to win. Thankfully, everyone was at least outwardly approving of the lineups we chose. No surprise, I was in the lineup for all four events. (Side note, I was willing to cede my spots for all events because I, myself, qualified for all-around finals, bars, and floor! woo! But they shut me down).


Before finals, we have a march-in for all the teams competing at nationals (whether or not they made finals) This year, there were over a hundred schools competing and a total of 243 teams (a school can have multiple teams that compete at different skill levels). It’s always impressive to see everyone lined up. (I don’t have a picture though)

When the National Anthem started, it was quickly realized that they forgot a flag. Luckily, one of the gymnasts had one we could use: (Photo courtesy of NAIGC Instagram)


Before competition began, we got to break two world records! One for the most simultaneous forward rolls and one for the most simultaneous handstands. I forget how many people did it but it was pretty neat!

Finally, the competition began! We started on beam which you may know as my least favorite event. Despite that, beam went pretty well. I didn’t fall at least! And neither much of the rest of A team! This is marked improvement over the six falls from prelims.

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The rest of the meet went well so there isn’t much to say about it. I didn’t do as well on bars as I did in prelims (I got a 9.375) but at least I didn’t fall. Floor went better than expected with a 9.475. Vault is always the same. If I make it, I do NOT do another one.

We didn’t help with tear down this year for two reasons:

  1. because we are terrible people
  2. We forgot to sign up to help

So I actually had some time between then until banquet. I used that time to show Logan the cool water gardens. Also fun fact, it was colder in Texas on Saturday than it was in Pennsylvania.

Banquet rolls around and we all line up. Many of my friends may or may not have been slightly inebriated. We got food and sat down and talked about how we think we did. It was already established that we hadn’t made the cut for placing as a team. My family and Logan came even though I didn’t think we’d win anything, Awards started and not many of us were paying attention. We has some great wins for the guys team! Very exciting! I got 5th on floor which was also exciting. When they reached the team awards, we were all packing up to leave when they announced, “In 3rd place for level 9 team awards with a 108.925, The Pennsylvania State University!!!”. We screamed and ran up to accept our banner. I don’t think any team has ever been this excited to win third place.

we win

After all the excitement, I said goodbye to my family and headed back to the hotel.

At 3:30 AM, it was time to get up and fly home.


LABASH 2018 at Penn State

I finally have the time to write some new blog posts! Woo! The end of the semester is quickly approaching! Tomorrow is my final presentation for my studio in Baltimore which is very exciting! Not so exciting? We have to leave at 6 AM (That is early for college students). I guess that’s not as bad as waking up at 3:30 AM to board the plane back to Pittsburgh (But you’ll hear about that in a later post). There are going to be many posts coming your way, but let’s start where I think I left off.


Wow! What an insane weekend. And tiring. very tiring. It was basically two full days of presentations and workshops by professionals in our field. And boy did we score some professional professionals. In terms of notoriety, we had a lot. Gina Ford, Susannah Drake, Ken Smith, David Rubin, Claudia West. Lots of important people. And its so strange that they are all here in not-that-exciting-compared-to-the-fancy-cities-they-work-in State College, Pennsylvania. I’m not going lie, part of me wondered what kind of incentives they had to come here. But regardless, it was exciting. The opening ceremony was at the State Theatre and I got to see my logo displayed on the big screen which was supremely cool.

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I also got to design the pin! (remember that?) it looks like this:


So Logan decided to make a giant wooden seal of my design to display all weekend:

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He is quite a character!

He also helped make this awesome palette wall:

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I couldn’t resist a handstand

The weekend consisted of listening to lectures and running around looking busy and getting shooed away by people more important than I haha.

also notice how all the volunteers had bright green shirts. We were referred to as the green shirts all weekend which then got truncated to ‘the shirts’.

After that was over I finally had time to relax right?

WRONG. (See next blog post)

I Went to a Bar and I Fell: Two Unrelated Events

Hello Friends! It has been a busy week! I’m gonna start with last weekend!

I Went to a Bar

On Friday night, I went to the BARS! Like the kind where people drink alcohol. First, my friends and I went to Pickles which is on Allen Street. There were two bouncers and two policemen standing out front which is pretty intimidating. Pickles was loud and crowded. My friends ordered beers and I got a sprite. After some casual chit chat, we changed venues. That’s right. I BAR HOPPED. haha! We went a very short distance to Zeno’s, located beneath the Corner Room also on Allen Street. Zeno’s was much quieter. I got a water and also ate some of the soft pretzel, fries, and mozzarella that my friend brought.

Extremely Mild Racism

Saturday morning, Logan (the boy I date) and I were walking down the street, headed to the HUB to get some textbooks. At no later than 11:30 in the morning, we passed a student house. Five or six clearly drunk guys were sitting on the porch drinking (what a shock!). As we passed, a bottle flew by our heads into a bush.
“Hey, a White and and Asian!” Yelled one of the guys.

There was a pause. And all I could think was what a perfect moment to say something incredibly clever like, “Great observation!” or “Wow! No way! I had no idea I was Asian until you pointed it out to me!” Unfortunately, I didn’t think of anything quite fast enough before Logan yelled at them to shut up.

I just think it’s hilarious that they were trying to be rude but utterly failed to say anything that was actually offensive.

I Fell

Last Tuedsay, I was riding my scooter home from studio. It was dark and it had just rained. These dark and wet conditions are not particularly ideal for scootering, but I wasn’t too worried. But as I sped down the mall between Old Main and the HUB, I hit a big bump in the sidewalk and went flying off. I got all scraped up. I thought about walking home, then texting Logan but after a few steps I decided I should probably text Logan to let him know. Here is the actual text conversation:

7:56 PM

Me: “I fell”

Me: “Ack blood”

Logan immediately calls me to figure out what happened. He told me to wait.

*The call ends*

7:59 PM

Me: I see a skunk!

He came and walked home with me. Don’t worry, I cleaned all the cuts out and put a bunch of band aids on them.



How Does the Sun Trim His Toenails?

Eclipse them!!!

Yes, I am back at school for the fourth year! It will be an interesting one I’m sure! Today was the first day of classes but luckily we got out just in time to go to the arboretum and watch the solar eclipse! (Shout out to my parents for getting me fancy eclipse glasses!) A ton of people showed up to watch the event! (About 1,000 people according to a credible source/friend).

I was hoping that it would get darker out, but the change in lighting was pretty subtle since a storm was passing by and it wasn’t obvious whether the darkness was from the clouds or the eclipse. It also got a little cooler as the eclipse reached it’s maximum coverage point. Before it started, the heat from the sun was pretty brutal, but as the moon moved into the sun’s path, the temperature definitely lowered.

I actually got a few picture of the eclipse happening by covering my phone camera with the eclipse lenses! They aren’t very good but still pretty cool!

And here’s a cool thing that happens during an eclipse: the shadows of leaves turn into crescent shapes! Strange right!? I’m not sure why it happens but it was pretty interesting to see.

So all in all, a pretty good first day of 4th year!

Ohio Bound and Back Again: Nationals 2017

This year, nationals was held in Columbus, Ohio. We left for NAIGC Club Gymnastics Nationals on an unremarkable Wednesday last week. The drive was uneventful, arriving at the hotel around 11:00 PM after over five hours of driving and a quick pit stop at “Truck World.” Columbus seemed like a nice city, but it was hard to tell at first since the day I competed preliminaries was cold, windy, and wet. Preliminaries went well! Our level 9 session was on Thursday in the late afternoon. I qualified for bars, floor, and all around finals.

On my day off, I went to the Franklin Park Conservancy with my parents and uncle. So even though I wasn’t doing larch things, I was still looking at a bunch of plants haha. I’m so cool.

Finals rolls around and I will never not be amazed at how many gymnasts compete at nationals. It’s pretty cool when all the schools line up in the hall way and march in to the gym before finals starts. Here is a picture I took (and that’s only about a quarter of them):

Finals was very stressful because I was the only one from A team to qualify for finals so I was competing in a group with a few other individual competitors. This is stressful, mostly on bars and vault, because each gym typically has different settings for how far apart the bars are, how high the vault table is, how far the board is from the vault, and how many springs are in the springboard. Let me explain more why this is an issue. During a competition, each gymnast gets 2 minutes to warm up on an event. When a team is competing, that time gets combined so if there are 7 girls, we get 14 minutes total to warm up which is a decent amount of time and it is also shared. There is also no need to change bar settings because everyone goes on the same setting. In the scenario I was in, everyone had different settings which meant that if we combined all our time together, we’d have to change the bar settings every time someone else took a turn and that just isn’t very efficient. So instead, we all blocked our own time so I had two minutes by myself to warm up. It’s very tiring.

Anyway, it didn’t matter because guess what?!?!?! I got FIRST on bars!!!! Oh yeah. National champ right here! HAHA. I’m funny. I didn’t place on any of the other events but I still did pretty well and the fact that I got a first place makes up for everything.

So all in all, a good meet and an enjoyable time 🙂

You Can’t Spell “Gowanus” Without “Us”

On Friday the 17th, 33 sleepy LARCHies got on the red-eye bus to Brooklyn, New York to see the infamous Gowanus Canal. If you are unfamiliar with the canal, as many of us were before the trip, it is/was one of the most polluted waterways in North America. I mean, it’s seriously nasty. If you were wondering what sort of business we had being in Brooklyn, it is the site of the next project in our design studio. Here are some photos of lovely Gowanus. It was actually a very pleasant day.

Something interesting I learned during our analysis of the Canal: Besides being a superfund site full of gross chemicals, trash, and sludge, it is also stagnant so nothing ever washes out. There is also little to no dissolved oxygen, which aquatic life need to survive. To fix this problem, they installed a giant flushing tunnel which brings water from butter milk channel in the Hudson Bay to the head of the canal where it is forcefully pumped. It’s actually working, because dissolved oxygen content levels have increased. However, the force also stirs up all that grossness in the bottom and results in this weird foam:

And, here is a picture of garbage at the bottom of the canal as the tide was going out:

Mmmmm. Lovely.

Leaving was a lot worse than travelling up. We got stuck in downtown Manhattan for two hours before finally getting out of the city. Some of my friends fell asleep for those two hours and awoke to find we were still in NYC. We didn’t end up returning to campus until around 1:00. Unfortunately for me, I had a gymnastics meet the next day.


The Home Meet

The home meet went well! I did well enough to win the All Around so that’s good. I was definitely running entirely on adrenaline because the next day, I was so sore that I walked like a hunch back who’d just gotten off a horse! haha! It wasn’t actually that bad. My cool friends also made an appearance with their funny signs:

Addressing the Unavoidable: The Presidential Election

Hello. I know you’ve read a lot of these types of posts. Too many? Sure. The last thing you want to read is another rant about this election and the state of our nation but, like everyone else in the US, I have something to say. I’ll try to keep this brief since I myself have a notoriously short attention span. (Note the word, try).

Before I tell you my opinion on everything, you’re gonna need to know where I’m coming from (something we often assume we understand about our counterparts in argument when we actually know very little). My name is Zoe and I’m a junior majoring in landscape architecture. I was adopted from China. I have two moms and a stunningly beautiful sister. Avoiding confrontation is one of my talents. I try really hard to stay “politically correct.” I think composting is cool and my dream house is covered in plants and solar panels and goats mow my lawn. Also, I’m a registered Democrat.

If anything I’ve said about myself so far has made you want to stop reading, that is understandable. However, it is also the reason that we are in this so-called-mess to begin with. We pick our friends, and we can generally decided what we want to see on social media. We surround ourselves with like-minded people because agreeable conversations are so much more manageable than dissonant ones. And I can’t blame anyone for this because I do it too. Every argument is a loosing battle, especially on the internet. The more you argue, the more both sides dig their heels in. No one ever changes their mind in an argument over those infamously controversial topics like gun rights, separating church and state, abortion, legalizing weed. All that happens is me and you getting angrier than we had been before. For a society that complains an awful lot about how broken we are, it seems like there are few people actively trying to fix it. Are you waiting for someone else to go first?

Remember when George Washington told us not to make political parties? Well here we are in 2016 with our divided nation and it doesn’t seem to be going super well for anyone. The sense of hate is so strong. Not just from “one side”, but from everyone. And it’s scary. I don’t support Trump, but me continuing to hate his guts and hate everyone who voted for him is not going to make a change. In fact, it just reinforces the satisfaction that those voters have for picking a candidate that opposes everything I stand for. It tells them that this stupid college yuppie claims to be “accepting” but here she is, a hypocrite denying and arguing over the fairness of this election. That perpetuates this constant cycle of assuming and misunderstanding and that is no good.

I don’t think it has to be this way. We don’t have to hug and dance in the sunshine together holding hands or any of that nonsense. But there needs to be a better understanding of each other. There needs to be a desire to understand why we believe what we do and not have to feel the need to shove our beliefs down the throats of dissenters. We immediately jump to hate when we don’t like something because being ignorant is so much easier trying to actually understand someone who has led such a drastically different existence than you. You can’t force someone to believe what you believe because their version of the truth is not yours. And that’s OK. But living to hate certain people with certain opinions is no way to live. If you are tired of all the hate, then make a change. Hate less and ask more questions. Appreciate that they are as entitled to an opinion as you are and accept it. Is it a naive hope that people will change? Or that people will learn that understanding and acceptance must reach far beyond like-minded peers? Probably. But without hope, then what are we doing here?

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Oops. This ended up much longer than I thought. Anyway, thanks for listening and be nice to one another 🙂