The Legend of Five-Medal Booth
I’m just crazy proud of this kid. I mean, I would’ve been anyway, but seriously: That’s a set of FIVE FREAKING MEDALS from the YMCA Gymnastics National Championships. That’s placing on every event and in all-around in her division. And it is awfully throat-lump enjoyable to see Kelsey with that smile, and here’s what makes it extra-special:
Just a couple months ago, back in April, she and her team competed at the big regional zone meet in Toledo. Now, she’s coming off a season in which she worked hard to improve in the areas where she came up short last year, and all season long, it had paid off in scores and higher finishes and her first All-Around Champion award at a regular meet. She won the balance beam at the district meet, too, and went into Zones super-psyched.
And she had a rough, rough time of things at the University of Toledo that spring day. No terrible falls or missteps, but just enough little things that added up to keep her out of the placings entirely. It’s a high level of competition at that meet, to be sure, but to come up entirely empty at the end of such a fun season really hit her hard.
This morning, we watched two pre-competition video clips. The first was because Kels mentioned she was nervous, what with this being Nationals and all. So I looked up this spot from Hoosiers:
(Jenn & I thought it would be fun to adopt the “Hickory!” cry during the meet, just because it would be kind of obscure and odd.)
Then, of course, I went to Old Faithful:
Chills. Every. Time.
The uneven bars have never been an easy event for Kels, but she put together a nice solid routine and scored an 8.375 to start things off. (It’s out of 10, but at this level, the 9.0 really marks the gold standard, just for a little perspective.)
Balance beam came next, and though you’d think I’d be used to it by now, it remains the most nerve-wracking for me to watch, even though my kid manages to look ridiculously composed up there. True to form, she kept her footing and scored an 8.6, and just like that, the two tougher events were behind her.
She earned an 8.4 with her floor exercise and finished her competition with another 8.6 on the vault for an all-around score of 33.975.
Now it was time to wait. (“I hate waiting.” – Inigo Montoya) With so many girls in this division, there’s really no way to keep accurate track of everyone’s scores, so it’s hard to even guess whether or not a certain score is worth a medal until they actually start handing them out.
I don’t remember which event they announced first, but as soon as they handed out the 10th place medal (again, for perspective, these divisions have dozens of competitors in them) and it went to a gymnast with a score lower than Kelsey’s, Jenn & I just started beaming at each other, because Kels was coming home with a medal.
And then it happened Four. More. Times. Seventh place on vault and beam, tenth place on floor, and she stood on the podium with a fifth-place bars finish. All-Around: Eighth place.
Now, Kels is normally pretty reserved in many ways, especially in public and around strangers, but watching her stand up there, unable to keep her own eyes from getting watery and unable to stop grinning and hugging her teammates and with this strange sort of mixed look of disbelief and joy – well, remembering the drive out of Toledo in April, damn if I didn’t get something in my eye, too.