As Sumner High gymnast Emi Bacha walks into a meet, she embraces the same routine she goes through every time: check the order of the meet schedule.
Yep, it’s going to be a busy day, she tells herself. And she’s not the only all-around gymnast who feels that way.
“I always check that once I’m there so I know where I’ll start,” Bonney Lake’s Hailey Taylor said.
It’s a routine many all-around gymnasts go through as they prepare to compete in four events: the vault, the bars, the beam and a floor routine. It’s a busy life and route chosen by an individual driven to succeed for the sake of self and team.
It’s crazy because you’re always doing something and working on something — you’re always busy.
Sumner High gymnast
“I wanted to be do all-around because I knew I could do it,” Bacha said. “I don’t really get tired going through the events, so I knew I could be someone who does all the events. At least there’s time to rest between each event.”
It’s a busy meet schedule, but one where gymnasts can demonstrate their expertise at every event instead of specializing and crafting one. It’s a life that zeroes in on the whole picture. But this life has two sides, and it begins at practice.
“She came to me wanting to be one of my all-around girls,” Sumner coach Kathryn Shimer said of Bacha. “Not a lot of girls have the experience to do from each event. A lot of times it’s the girls who also do club (gymnastics) that get selected.”
For gymnastics teams like Sumner and Bonney Lake, it can be a chaotic scene at the Auburn Gymnastic Center, where both teams train together amongst a throng of gymnasts of all ages.
“It’s crazy because you’re always doing something and working on something — you’re always busy,” Emi said.
Whether it’s Bacha, Taylor, Puyallup High’s Kate Jacobson or Emerald Ridge’s Kelly Richardson, practice is where things can perfected, Bonney Lake coach Helen Balabanis said. But it’s so much more to the gymnasts as they go through a long and physical season.
Sometimes the ability to shake the pressure is created in the solitude of a single gym. No distractions, just complete focus.
“I like to work on beams at practice because I can take my time going through what I want to do during my routines a meets,” Jacobson said. “I’m able to go through that without any pressure … it helps when we get to meets.”
Order of things
When Bonney Lake’s Taylor enters a meet, she always keeps a glimmer of hope alive with the schedule. In a perfect world, her routines would have structure — an order of things to build momentum for the Panthers as she competes.
“I want to start with vaults because vaults is my mentally-toughest event, honestly, because you’re running at full speed at a stationary object,” Taylor said.
What makes an all-around gymnast is the ability to have a strong routine at each of the four events. Every gymnast has their strengths and their weaknesses.
For Richardson and Sumner’s Bacha and Ashlee Tarro, it’s their agility and strength at bars that stands out. Sometimes by excelling at one event, gymnasts can focus on others more to put in work on their weaknesses.
“I’m super competitive from playing other sports, so I think that helps me out,” Richardson said. “That’s why I think I do well on bars, because I have the mindset to go after it … that helps me with other events, too.”
For Taylor, a perfect meet would end with her floor routine. Not only is it the most tiring event, but the one that seems to bring this Panther to life.
“If I could end on my floor routine, that’s how I would structure a meet,” Taylor said. “It’s my best event, and I can go out there and just let it loose and not worry about the next event. If you see there’s something judges haven’t seen yet, then it gives you the chance to do something different than the other girls.”
Not all or nothing
As the season winds down to league and districts meets, it’s starting to become crunch time for the local all-around gymnasts to make it to the Tacoma Dome Arena and Exhibition Hall, when the state meet begins Feb. 19.
There is less room for mistakes these girls face as they attempt to squeeze into the five-person window to compete as an all-around performer. It’s a pressure many of them face.
I definitely want to make it in every event ... But I’m being realistic knowing I still have other chances, too.
Puyallup High gymnast
“Yeah, it’s tough but you have to have a short-term memory,” Bacha said. “You have to be able to move on from your last event, and do your best at the next one. You can’t let it get to you.”
The pressure is great, but it’s not an all-or-nothing situation these gymnasts face heading down the line. The saving grace is that there’s still chances many of these girls can make it to the state meet.
“Even if I mess up on one event, I still can make it to districts or state on the other three,” Jacobson admitted. “You won’t be in for all-around, but you’ll still be in, so that takes the pressure off you a little bit.”
It takes some pressure off, sure, but not enough, as most teams’ all-around gymnasts have that fire inside to prove that they’ve begun mastering this craft.
“I definitely want to make it in every event,” Jacobson said. “But I’m being realistic knowing I still have other chances, too.”