CERSOSIMO: Saturday's trip down memory laneI experienced a first over the weekend when I wrote my name in an article, and it wasn’t my byline signifying the story I wrote.
I experienced a first over the weekend when I wrote my name in an article, and it wasn’t my byline signifying the story I wrote.
Over the weekend at the state gymnastics meet, I watched two of South Dakota’s top high school gymnasts push a record that I hold and still take a lot of pride in.
Gymnastics has been a big part of my life, starting at a young age and competing at age 10 with All American Gymnastics Academy in Sioux Falls, where I got the opportunity to compete in national meets in Colorado, Nevada and California.
I joined the Mitchell High School gymnastics program as an eighth-grader and was unable to compete at the state meet because I dislocated my elbow one week before the end of the season.
I earned my first individual state title as a freshman on the balance beam and went on to claim my first all-around title as a sophomore. I was able to win the all-around title a total of three times and help my school to championships in 2007 and 2008.
I went on to do gymnastics collegiately at Southern Utah University — an NCAA Division I program — where our team won the Western Athletic Conference championship in 2010. I also claimed an individual WAC title on beam in 2011.
After graduating in May, I returned to Mitchell to become a sports writer at The Daily Republic, which gave me an opportunity to return to the state gymnastics meet Friday and Saturday in Rapid City.
Being back at the state gymnastics meet flooded my mind with memories and dreams I had so long ago. It was an odd experience sitting in the stands and covering the event from the sidelines, but I learned to embrace it as the weekend progressed.
Deuel sophomore Meaghan Sievers came within .015 of the state record I hold for Mitchell, a Class AA school, scoring a 39.2 Saturday evening during the Class A competition. She did, however, break the Class A record set by teammate Sam Wiekamp at 39.099 in 2011.
After Friday’s team meet, I knew there were several competitors with the ability to break the record. To overtake the top spot, a gymnast had to average a 9.804 on all four events.
When I was a sophomore, I came within .2 of the record set by Sioux Falls O’Gorman’s Sarah Nitz in 1993. Her record stood for 13 years and was 38.799.
I was determined to break the record my junior year. I came into the state tournament with the drive to help lead my team to its first-ever state title. I wanted that all-around record as well.
With the success we had on the team day of competition — winning the meet after coming into the meet ranked third — I had a good feeling about the second day.
I realized early in the meet that I was on pace to break the record and after three rotations I set myself up to allow a few wobbles on beam, which was my final event.
During my final beam routine, I remember thinking, “I bet my parents are more nervous than me right now.”
Regardless, I finished a nearly flawless routine and was awarded prefect scores by all three judges. I didn’t know how to react because I knew I broke several records at that moment, but knew the routine could’ve been better, and I know my coach Audra Rew, still Mitchell’s gymnastics coach, would say the same.
Nonetheless, it was a great feeling knowing the state all-around record belonged to me, so I can imagine what the gymnasts going after the record were feeling Saturday.
As I watched the Class AA individual competition Saturday, I kept a close eye on the top gymnasts in the arena — Colette and Chelsey Christensen, sisters from Rapid City Central High School.
After the Cobblers’ first rotation — floor exercise — both girls were right on the mark with eighth-grader Chelsey scoring a 9.85, which tied the Class AA all-time state floor record. Colette, a junior who also won the all-around title in 2012, scored a 9.775 on floor, but her best events were yet to come.
After vault, their second rotation, Colette pulled closer to mark, scoring a 9.8, while Chelsey fell nearly out of reach of the record, causing her to have to score an average of 9.95 on her last two events to accomplish the feat.
Colette set herself up to surpass the all-around record with a 9.85 bar routine that was nearly flawless. In her last routine of the season, Colette had to score a 9.8 on the balance beam, which is the hardest event to tally high scores on because there is a high margin of error.
Before she mounted, it hit me.
“Maybe there is a reason this is the first state gymnastics meet I’ve been able to attend since graduation,” I thought. “Maybe I’m supposed to see her break it.”
As she mounted the beam, I was probably watching her more intently than the judges sitting at the side of the mat. I wasn’t going to miss a routine that had the potential to make history in South Dakota high school gymnastics.
I could tell she was nervous, but I didn’t know if she knew the circumstances. During her first skill, she had a slight wobble, so the 9.8 mark was still attainable if everything was executed perfectly.
But on her switch-leap, Colette kicked her left leg to shoulder height to keep her balance — which is no less than a .2 deduction.
At that moment, I knew the record wouldn’t be broken during the Class AA meet. Yet, I knew Deuel’s Sievers and Wiekamp, a senior who now has 19 Class A state titles, were capable.
As mentioned earlier, Sievers, a very deserving gymnast, came within .015 of the mark. Having left Rapid City after the Class AA session, I was unable to watch her come that close.
But now, after watching the state’s top high school athletes today, it’s only a matter of time before my six-year record falls.
Like they say, records are meant to be broken. But my hope is to be present to watch it fall.