Gymnastics: College offers a chance for creativity

By By Jon Gilbert

By Jon Gilbert

Attending college brings new responsibilities and a new independence with it. Students pick classes, majors, new friends, and some of them pick their gymnastics routines.

Utah gymnasts know that college gymnastics is much different than any other level of competition of which they’ve been a part. Many of the Red Rocks are former Junior Olympic competitors, and some are champions.

That, however, doesn’t guarantee success in collegiate gymnastics.

Throughout years of club gymnastics, coaches tell their young gymnasts what their routines would contain. If the gymnast doesn’t want to do it — tough.

“I feel like I’ve prepared myself instead of someone telling me exactly what to do,” senior Jessica Duke said of her college routines.

Duke said that she was force-fed routines in her club training. She said she loves her former club coach and understands that is the way gymnastics is taught. The system helped her win the National Junior Olympic all-around competition in 2002, but she enjoys having an active role in creating her performances.

“That’s the difference between coaching young women and little girls,” head coach Greg Marsden said.

Thirty-four years ago, Marsden spent time coaching club gymnastics at the Utah Academy of Gymnastics. He said he used a similar style of coaching that Duke attested to experiencing in club competition. His athletes’ maturity and experience enable them to contribute to their routines. Club gymnasts usually have too much to learn to be able to construct a routine for themselves.

The team aspect of college gymnastics is also different than club gymnastics.

“If you mess up, it doesn’t affect just you,” Duke said. “It affects everyone (on the team).”

Sophomore Jamie Deetscreek echoed Duke’s feelings. Deetscreek won the Junior Olympic all-around honors on her 15th birthday in 2002 and again in 2004.

Although Deetscreek was successful in individual competition during her years of experience, adjusting to the team format took some time.

“We’re all helping each other, because we’re all trying to reach one goal,” Deetscreek said. “In club, everyone has their own set goals.”

Despite reaching goals over and over again in club gymnastics, the current Red Rocks never got much attention for their passion.

Duke said that friends knew that she was in gymnastics but, for the most part, didn’t understand the difference between when she won an intra-squad meet and when she won the Junior Olympics Championships.

At Utah, people notice the gymnasts. Utah has won 23 of the last 26 years’ gymnastics attendance titles for having the most spectators at the meets, including last year. During the past 16 years, the Red Rocks have performed in front of an average of nearly 11,000 fans each meet. Those numbers easily dwarf any crowd Deetscreek or Duke had ever performed in front of before attending Utah.

“If I went anywhere else, I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much,” Duke said. “I think when you say ‘NCAA champion,’ it’s the best thing you can get before ‘elite.'”

The opportunity for gymnasts like Duke and Deetscreek to win a team championship is a welcome change of pace from the competitions they once knew.

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Ana Kartashova

After years of being told what had to go into her routines Jessica Duke enjoys the freedom she has at the college level to decide for herself what to put into her routines.