The Seattle Pacific gymnastics team walked into the practice gym on Monday with one thing on their mind — change.
The team knew after coming off a disappointing performance at Air Force last week, where the Falcons posted their lowest score of the season, that they were going to have to change the way they went about practicing, coaching, and above all, performing at meets if they wanted any chance of being where they wanted to be at the end of the season.
“We recollected and thought about different ways we could help each other out,” senior Kenley Memmel said. “We got it together.”
The Falcons did in fact get it together — and then some.
The team not only scored 2.200 points higher than their last meet, they posted their second highest score of the season and performed exceptionally well in the beam event — an area that has been by far their worst event week after week. Not to mention, they almost took down Division-I powerhouse Sacramento State in the process.
“Last week we were really frustrated,” freshman Kristi Hayashida said. “We really worked hard in the gym and really had something to prove. [We] went in with a different mindset and knew we were going to hit.”
The team started out on vault and bars, scoring 48.025 points in both and topping last week’s bar score by almost half a point.
“We just tried to focus on little corrections in all of our routines,” junior Cara Lord said. “[We wanted] to get that extra half tenth that would make all the routines better.”
With the first two events out of the way, the team turned to the event that has been the most intimidating to them over the course of the season thus far — the beam.
“After last week [the coaches] told us we need to have more confidence [on the beam],” Hayashida said. “So we approached everything with a different mindset and [told ourselves] that we were going to make our routines before we went on, and that really made a difference.”
The team made a huge difference on beam, rebounding from an awful 45.625 last week at Air Force and posted a score almost three points higher at 48.025, good enough for the team’s second-best overall event behind the floor exercise.
“I think it showed them that they are as good as they have been telling themselves,” head coach Laural Tindall said. “They can only go up.”
The team was proud of their performance on the event, achieving goals for that event that they set out to accomplish from the very beginning.
“The biggest thing for us is that we didn’t count any falls,” Hayashida said. “This is the first week we haven’t done that. We have been trying all season to accomplish that.”
Although the performance was spectacular, the team will tell you it was all the work they put into the event in practice that led to such a high score.
“We were really focusing,” Memmel said. “[We were working on] mental queues, and we did a lot of pressure sets [practice routines with the entire team watching]. People worked really hard.”
Even the gymnasts who didn’t compete in the event were offering their support.
“We cheered on [our teammates] more, even if we weren’t competing,” Lord said. “We told them that beam could be our best event.”
With this impressive routine under its belt, the team looks nowhere but up for this event in the future.
“I think that what [this high score] did for us, more than anything, was give us a lot of confidence in this event,” Hayashida said, who scored a 9.475 on the beam. “We didn’t fully reach our peak on this event. We can hit our [beam routines] even better.”
A performance like this on this event doesn’t surprise the head coach at all, despite the challenges they have had reaching this point.
“They are really good beam performers,” Tindall said. “They can look good and do good on that event.”
One aspect that made this meet such a good one for the Falcons was that they competed so well against a Division-I opponent. This is something that the team does often, but they rarely come within .250 points of knocking off one of these overwhelmingly bigger schools.
“It keeps measuring our confidence,” Lord said. “They are a good team that we can compete with. There is no reason to hold back. We have the talent to compete with these bigger schools.”
No matter how you add it all up, the Falcons saw the change that needed to happen and went after it — with an astounding amount of success. Now, at the mid-season point in its season, the team looks at where they are and what else they can do to make the team better.
“I think this meet was a confidence boost,” Memmel said. “We can hit all of our events and hit good scores. And at the same time, just making routines isn’t good enough — we need to push ourselves and push our scores without falls.”
The team will have its next chance to boost its scores when it travel to Corvallis, Ore., this Saturday for a quad meet with Oregon State, Utah State and Boise State on Feb. 15.