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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Long live the “Queen”

By Tony Pizza

Queens are famous for getting exactly what they want, when they want it. Whether someone is referring to a queen bee, Queen Elizabeth I, the queen of hearts or the queen on a chessboard, it is safe to say that queens rule. So it is fitting that the “Queen” on the U’s gymnastic team has also been crowned captain of the Red Rocks for the 2006-2007 season.

Although senior Nicolle Ford has yet to order any beheadings, she does admit that her queen-like desire to have things a particular way contributed to the nickname Queen, or Queenie, which teammates, coaches and fans at the U affectionately call her.

“The summer before my freshman year, I worked out with a different coach than my own coach,” Ford said. “I apparently asked him to move the mat one too many times or something. It started out as Queen and then Queenie? now people here don’t even know my real name.”

Despite the sarcastic reference to the high-maintenance qualities that are typically associated with those anointed queen, Ford’s teammates-both new and old-hold the newly appointed captain in the highest regard.

“Queenie, first of all-she’s our only senior, so she’s been here the longest with the most experience, and from day one she has led everyone, from the freshmen to everyone in between,” said freshman Sarah Shire. “She doesn’t leave any out?you need anything, you go to her.”

Although Ford is the only senior on the gymnastics team this year, this is not the significant reason Ford was voted captain this year. It was her example that exalted her to the leadership role she has been entrusted with.

“She’s always really confident in herself and she’s such a good example for everybody on the team,” sophomore Kristina Baskett said. “I’ve looked up to her and she’s set a good example for me of how I want to be confident in my skills, and she’s just a great leader.”

Head coach Greg Marsden could not agree more. In fact, Marsden foresaw Ford’s position as a captain well before the team voted her into that position.

“To be honest, she was a leader from the beginning, just because of her personality and her character,” Marsden said. “I knew that it was inevitable that she was going to emerge into (team captain).”

Marsden also points to Queenie’s work ethic as a source of the example he wishes to see his captain set.

“There’s probably not a tougher competitor or harder worker. She’s very successful and is willing to do the work to accomplish things,” Marsden said. “She’s a leader by example.”

It is easy to see the type of poise, confidence and leadership Queenie possesses upon meeting her. The way she makes eye contact demands the same elevated attention her performances require on the mat.

Filling the role of moderator is not a particularly easy or pleasurable task, but Ford understands her role as captain well.

“She’s not afraid to get in your face if that’s what it takes, and she’s not afraid to confront me,” Marsden said. “If the team has issues with what’s going on?they (the gymnasts) are comfortable that she would come and represent them well.”

Queenie has also had a little bit of help stepping into the role of full-time captain. Last year, she shared the captain responsibilities with then-senior Kristen Riffanacht, with whom Nicolle had competed since she was 10 years old. Ford credits Riffanact in helping her grow into the role she has taken for this year.

“I shared captainship with Kristen last year and that was really good,” Ford said. “She’s helped me every year that I’ve been here, and being co-captain helped me get to know the ropes and learn from her.”

Ford’s example and dedication inside the gym are extremely contagious-after all, it is pretty easy for teammates to appreciate an all-around excellent athlete like Ford. The inside of the gym is not the only place Ford puts her all-around talent to use. Many teammates cite the fact that Ford is simply a great friend and confidante outside the gym. And this, they have said, is a poignant reason Queenie has been crowned team captain.

“She’s a leader in the gym, but also out of the gym. She’s there when we need her?so it was an easy pick,” Shire said.

Because this is her last year to win a collegiate championship, Ford is being driven (no pun intended) even harder toward her responsibilities as team captain.

“I want to win so bad, and I know the coaches do, too,” Ford said. “The championship’s at home this year and it’s my last year. I know that I want it really, really bad, and I hope that the rest of the team does, too. I will help them get there.”

With five freshmen joining the Red Rocks this year, the type of leadership that Ford provides could not have come at a better time. Ford will spearhead the efforts to acclimate her newest teammates to collegiate gymnastics and what it means to be a gymnast at the U.

“Especially with the reputation we have here, we have a lot riding on us and people look at us and respect us,” Ford said. “I mean, this team is really young. We have a lot of underclassmen who don’t really know how special this team is and how the reputation sits.”

The true mark of Ford’s skill as captain comes in her maturity and her intelligence toward her responsibility on the team. Ford is so in tune with her responsibility that she mentioned one of the critical tasks will be for her to recognize when and how hard to push her teammates and when not to keep her comments to herself.

With Nicolle Ford as the U gymnastics team captain, one thing is quite clear for the Red Rocks this year: Their Queen is going to do everything in her monarchical control to keep the national championship here at Utah when the Super Six comes to town next April.

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