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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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Deetscreek’s summer pays off

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

“Summertime and the living’s easy.”

That might be true for Sublime in their 1996 hit “Doin’ Time,” but for Utah gymnast Jamie Deetscreek, summer was anything but easy. That’s not to say it wasn’t rewarding.

From the time her body recovered from the NCAA Championships last April to when she started training hard for the 2009 season in October, Deetscreek underwent a dramatic metamorphosis. Deetscreek was hardly even a role player when she joined the Red Rocks in summer 2006. Now the junior is an all-arounder who has helped solidify what head coach Greg Marsden thinks might be one of his deepest teams ever.

“We may be an even better team, because I think we’re better in the beginning of our lineup and still strong at the end of the lineup,” Marsden said.

The team’s only coach in its 34-year existence is comparing this year’s team to 2008’s, which featured Ashley Postell, Utah’s most decorated gymnast in team history. Deetscreek has become a huge part of filling that void.

“We talked about early in the year, how we replace Ashley,” Marsden said. “I said it was going to have to be through committee…for Jamie to step up the way she has has been a huge part of that.”

Deetscreek came to the U the way many level-10 gymnasts do8212;surrounded by gymnasts who competed at the elite level. With that also came the misconception that gymnastics at the college level is somehow easier than at the club level. It’s true that there is a drop in skill requirements and routine length, but it’s a type of gymnastics that demands consistency. Throw in homesickness and a departure from the mentality of club gymnastics where every minute of a gymnast’s life revolves around school, gymnastics, food and rest, and the transition to college life can be a difficult one.

“I’m kind of a slow person to change,” Deetscreek said. “It takes a lot of work to actually get to where I need to be.”

Marsden relies on a system that allows for freedom the 20 hours a day his gymnasts aren’t practicing. With that freedom comes a demand for self-discipline and an inner desire for improvement. When Deetscreek came to Utah, she admits she wasn’t in a place to blossom under those parameters.

“I was not very good with my gymnastics my freshman year because I was out of shape and just in a bad place,” Deetscreek said.

With the likes of Postell. Nicolle Ford, Kristina Baskett and Nina Kim8212;all of whom were competing at the elite level in club gymnastics8212;Deetscreek also felt out of place. The lack of confidence wore on her and forced her coaches to question how successful she would become at the collegiate level.

“Her first year I was really concerned if she was going to make it or not,” Marsden said.

Deetscreek rarely competed her freshman year. When she did, her movements looked labored. As the season persisted, she did more “cheerleading” and less competing.

“Whether they were falling, or doing well, I felt like I was8212;I knew I was part of it8212;but it was kind of like I was in the distance clapping and saying “good job,'” Deetscreek said. “I wasn’t really in the mix.”

It took one summer to change all of that.

Nobody, not even Deetscreek, is sure exactly what clicked last summer. Marsden said Deetscreek rededicated herself to gymnastics. The way Deetscreek describes it, somewhere during her sophomore year, she found the confidence she needed, and she realized she could positively affect her team as much as anyone. She also said competing in front of 15,000 fans helped push her to new heights.

“I was like, “Oh my gosh, I have to perform in front of all these people,'” Deetscreek said. “That motivated me to get better.”

The refocus has shown in her gymnastics this year, but the click wasn’t as instantaneous or sweat-free as it sounds.

While other college-age girls were working on their tans, Deetscreek used her summer with Utah assistant strength trainer Jon Webster to make her body into something that could pull off the big maneuvers necessary to keep Utah in national championship contention this year.

“Jamie, in particular, she just bust her butt,” Webster said. “She just came to work in the summer, and even during the fall. For a coach, you can’t ask for a better athlete to work with.”

Deetscreek and six other Utah gymnasts worked with Webster four times a week doing strength and speed training, with an emphasis in plyometrics, which concentrate on fast, powerful movements. Along with intense training, Deetscreek also rededicated herself in the gym. Marsden leaves the gym open during the summer so that gymnasts have the option to work out at their own pace and discretion. Marsden would often look in the gym and see several of the gymnasts in a circle on the mats of the Dumke Center talking for an hour or more. Deetscreek wouldn’t participate in these Red Rock powwows.

“Jamie, when all those girls are sitting around talking, did 30 minutes on beam, 30 minutes on bars, 30 minutes on vault, 30 minutes on floor and left,” Marsden said. “And they’re all still sitting there talking.”

The plyometrics during the summer helped Deetscreek regain her leg strength, which is critical for tumbling8212;particularly on floor and vault routines. When preseason workouts began, she found herself ready to be a more instrumental part of Utah’s lineup on floor and vault, which were hardly options for her before.

“Things got easier for her again,” Marsden said. “The first year, she was struggling to get things done because she just wasn’t in great shape. It wasn’t horrible. In gymnastics, there can be such a fine line by being in good enough shape to doing certain skills and not being able.”

Come 2009, Deetscreek was on the right side of being able to have those skills again. Her confidence has also improved. Deetscreek said she’ll always have some element of nervousness, but competing in all four events has lessened the pressure of being perfect in any one event. Being a bigger part of the team has helped as well.

“I think I feel more like I can help the team out, and that was a hard thing to go through,” Deetscreek said.

She has set career highs in all four events this season, including a career meet against Utah State on Feb. 9 where she set a career-high 39.5 in the all-around. She pulled off that score by setting personal bests on bars (9.925), beam (9.875) and floor (9.875). Despite her nerves, which she said are “always going to be there,” she’s been Utah’s standard of consistency this season, hitting 32-of-32 routines this season. She’s even been the team’s best all-arounder twice, including her first attempt in the season opener against UCLA.

Everything she has done this season is attributable to what she managed to put herself through during the summer.

“I’m really happy for her in that regard, because she definitely works hard at it during the summer,” Webster said about Deetscreek’s accomplishments this year.

“Proud would be an understatement,” Marsden said. “I’m elated.”

For Deetscreek, she hopes her effort and the results are motivation enough for a new crop of level-10 gymnasts who come to Utah unsure about how they can help a perennial national championship contender.

“I think people consider me a hard worker, which I like,” Deetscreek said. “I do work hard, so it’s nice that people notice that. And I think it also helps for freshmen that are in my situation that I can, like, help them and say, “Look, if you work hard you can still get in the lineup. It’s not impossible.'”

While at Utah, summertime might never be easy for Deetscreek, but it has helped make the rest of the year just that.

[email protected]

Erik Daenitz

Jamie Deetscreek?s focus and dedication during summer workouts has translated into increased success during the Red Rock?s 2009 season. Her renewed confidence and fitness makes her one of the team?s key all-around competitors.

Lennie Mahler

U gymnast Jamie Deetscreek has reached new heights after working to transform herself into one of the Red Rock?s most consistent and successful athletes.

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