Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dear Gymternet- Journals from Elena Arenas (Entry #6 November 2014)

Dear Gymternet, 

 This month has been great! I went to the Pan American Gymnastics Union Camp (PAGU) and Developmental camp. 

PAGU was so much fun! I made friends with girls from all around North America, South America and Central America. All of the girls rode a bus from the airport to the ranch except for me and Maile. We got to the ranch before them and were anxiously waiting for the bus to arrive and when it did, we went outside and just kind of stood around not knowing what to say or do. We went back to our room and waited for our roommates to come. My roommates were two girls from Peru along with Maile. One of them spoke a little bit of English but the other one didn’t. In between practices Maile and I made a video star to Shake it Off that was sped up and sounded like a chipmunk voice. It was so funny! 

Practices at PAGU were great! The countries in my group were Argentina, Coasta Rica, and Canada. Valeri was USA’s main coach so he rotated with us everywhere. I was the second to shortest one there and I wasn’t used to that because at developmental camp I’m near the middle of the line up now. Since a lot of the girls didn’t speak English, Maile and I were the examples for everything, even warm up! My dad speaks both Spanish and English very well so he was able to translate. When we first got to the ranch and looked at the schedule, we saw that there was going to be an athlete party! We were so excited! On the second to last day, it was time for the party. I asked Maile to do something cute with my hair so she French braided it on the side and I had it down. When we went to the party, which was in the cafeteria, it was dark but there was a disco ball and strobe lights with music. We listened to music from different countries and learned dances. Overall, PAGU was such a fun and exciting experience!

November developmental camp was about 10 days after PAGU and also went very well. This time my friend Eliza was with me who is from my gym. Our flight was delayed and we literally walked in right as everyone was lining up ... we made it just in time! We had to show our skills this time and I did well on everything. Next camp I’ll have to verify routines. In between practices I got my new floor routine done! I absolutely love it and can’t wait to compete it! Also, I caught my ray on bars while I was there.

Elena with her teammate Eliza

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I don’t have much coming up the month of December, but I hope something exciting will happen!

~ Elena                                                   

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Meet The Elite: Alexis Vasquez

Alexis Vasquez is one of the few up and coming stars from Chows Gymnastics. A few years ago she packed her bags and moved far from home just to train with Chow and chase her Olympic dream. Now she prepares to enter the senior ranks as one of the top gymnasts in the country. In 2014, which was only her second year at the elite level, she improved her ranking at the P&G Championships from 15th all-around to 5th all-around! She also claimed the national title on beam and was named to the junior National Team. That's pretty impressive for a girl who's only fourteen years old!

We recently did a Q&A with Alexis. Check out what she had to say down below!

Photo Credit: USA Gymnastics

You moved from California all the way to Iowa to train with Chow. How did you make this decision? 
I made the decision about three years ago. I was already going to quit my old gym, but I still wanted to pursue my Olympic dream. My first thought was to train at Chows Gymnastics! After continuously talking with my parents, we decided it would be worth it.

Can you describe training with Chow and your teammates; Victoria, Norah and Rachel? 
Chow is a great coach. He knows how to make working hard everyday a fun and enjoyable experience. It's great having Victoria, Norah and Rachel as teammates. They are all very hard workers and very fun to be around. We all cheer each other on and push each other when we need it most!
Photo Credit: Christy Ann Linder

How would you describe yourself, in and out of the gym? 
Inside and outside of the gym I'm pretty serious, but I'm more talkative outside of the gym.

Can you talk about your experience at Championships last year?
I'm very pleased with how I did on each event. Ultimately making the National Team and winning beam was a great experience.  

Going in to Championships did you have any idea that you could potentially win the beam title? 
No, I didn't think winning beam was possible at the time. Mainly because I only started full routines about two weeks before the meet due to my hip injury, I was very surprised and happy that I won beam!

In what ways do you hope to improve for next year? 
Next year I would like to keep healthy and improve my execution and difficulty on all of the events.

Are you nervous to be joining the senior ranks? What are some of your goals? 
Yes, I'm a little nervous. My goals being a senior are to be given an international assignment and to stay healthy.

What are your long term goals? 
To be on the Olympic team and to be accepted into a great academic college!

Do you have an idea of where you would like to go for college? 
Well, I'm not sure yet. Right now I'm just concentrating on my debut as a senior.

What do you like to do when you're not in the gym?
Well other then having to do homework; I like to paint canvases, bake, and play with my poodle.

If you could have the career of any gymnast who would it be and why?
I'd like to have the career of Elizabeth Price because even though she didn't make the Olympic team, she had a very successful elite career and got a scholarship to Stanford.

Out of all the leotards you've worn, which one is your favorite? 
My favorite would be the red one that I wore this year at P&G's. Probably because my favorite color is red!

Photo Credit: Christy Ann Linder

What was the hardest skill for you to learn?
The hardest skill for me to learn would probably be a blind change on bars, like a giant half!

If you weren't a gymnast what sport would you do? 
I would probably do short distance running and pole vault!

What is one thing you asked for for Christmas? 
I asked for a Plum Leo!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Let The River Flow (Holiday Gift Idea!)

The 1997 U.S. National Champion Vanessa Atler has published her first children's book just in time for the holidays! So if you are the parent of a young athlete and you're looking for the perfect gift to get for your child, consider Atler's book, "Let The River Flow."

"Let The River Flow" is a book that was written based off Vanessa's own experiences as a young gymnast and is geared towards young athlete's ages 5-10. The story is about a girl named River who struggles after losing a competition; an obstacle that every gymnast must face. The book teaches an important lesson to young kids that the road to success isn't always easy. Winning and losing is a part of the journey. 

The book was published by USA Gymnastics and is available individually for $14.95 (plus shipping) or in groups at a discounted price. (Perfect for gym club owners who want to stock up their pro-shop!) You can purchase "Let The River Flow" by clicking here.

Vanessa is available for readings and signings that can be set up through USA Gymnastics.

For more information visit www.lettheriverflow.net

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Seven tips for drafting your fantasy team!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! That's right, it's time to play Fantasy Gymnastics! This will be our third year playing and let me tell you- it's a blast! If you're looking for something to keep you busy during the long winter months, follow college gymnastics and play fantasy gym! You won't regret it!

You can sign up (here) if you haven't already!

Once you're all signed up and ready to go, you can begin drafting your team! This is the most crucial part to the whole game because if you don't draft a good team, it's basically game over. Last year we won our conference and finished second overall in the full rankings, this was mainly because we drafted a super strong team. We get asked lots of questions about the drafting process, so we decided to compile a list of tips that we've learned that will help you draft an awesome team for fantasty gymnastics! 

Happy drafting!

Photo Credit: Gymnastike

1. Don't draft girls just because they're from a top school!
The number one mistake I see people make while drafting their team is only picking girls from top schools like Florida or Oklahoma. For one, drafting a bunch of girls from the same school is risky because if that team sits out for the week you won't have many options for backup. (Yes, this has happend to people in the past.) Second, while the top schools have several girls you would want on your team, remember not every girl is capable of putting up a high score every week. A lot of the top ranked teams have so much depth, there isn't room for a lot of variety in their lineups.When you branch out to teams like Michigan, Georgia, or Utah, you'll still find a lot of girls who can consistently put up 9.9+ every week. It's not about what team they're on, it's about the gymnast and what they are personally capable of. Don't just pick a girl because she's on the national championship winning team!

2. Don't draft girls just because they have an elite past!
We made this mistake in our first year of playing fantasty gym. Just because a girl was an elite in the past, that doesn't mean she's guranteed to be an awesome college gymnast. We aren't saying that former elites arent good, because many of them are, but there are a lot of girls who excel in college gymnastics who were never elite. In fact, many of the best collegiate gymnasts from last season came straight out of the JO program. For example; Emily Wong, Kat Grable, Lloimincia Hall, Joanna Sampson, Haley Scaman and Lindsay Mable were (and are) extremely sucessful in their collegiate careers and never made a run at the elite level. While it's common for gym fans to draft familar names from the elite world, just remember that it's not necessarily the key to sucess when it comes to fantasy gym.

3. Do your research! 
This takes time, but it will be worth it! (Refer to tip #7) Pull up some rosters and research the girls; see who does what events and how well they typically score. Anybody who scores consistenly in the 9.8's or higher is someone you are going to want to draft in the top 70 for your team. The more familar you are with the team and their gymnasts, the more successful you will be in drafting and while making your lineups.

4. Know how to rank your draft list!
It's okay to put Bridet Sloan or Samantha Peszek on the top of your list, just realize the more popular the gymnast, that's more people that are going to be drafting her...which means the chances you are going to get her isn't as likley. (Of course there is still a chance...somebody has to get them, so by all means if you REALLY want someone put them first or second.) This kind of goes back to our previous points, you want to draft girls who can score just as high but aren't as "popular." The higher you rank those girls, the more likley you are going to get them. Last year we had Joanna Sampson, Kim Jacob, Taylor Spears, Lindsay Mable and several more girls who can all score 9.9+ on every event and that's because we drafted them in the top ten of our list. Because our team was so strong we easily won our conferernce and were not far behind the overall winner. It's all about smart drafting!

5. Be careful with freshman and girls prone to injury!
You are going to have to draft freshman, there is no way to avoid it, but you want to learn their strengths and weaknesses the best you can. We also reccomend not putting them as high on your list, just because you can never be sure how a freshman is going to handle the transition from club gymnastics to college. The freshman don't always make the lineups, exspecially towards the beginning of the season. It's okay to have them on your team, but we don't reccomend drafting them as one of your key players unless you have a lot of faith in them. Also be careful drafting girls that are injured or have a history of being injured. Nothing sucks more than drafting someone and not being able to use them all season. Of course injuries are unpredictable and can happen at any time, but don't intentionally draft someone that you are not 100% confident in.

6. Know that every school has at least one star! 
Don't be afraid to branch out and find the dark horses, because every team has one! Trust me, every single team on this planet has at least one girl that they count on to post a top score every week, whether that be in the all-around or on a few events. When a team is ranked really low (like out of the top 20) their gymnasts tend to score lower naturally, but you will still find girls who consistently score in the 9.8's or higher even on the lowest ranked teams. You can draft up to 150 gymnasts, so you're going to want look for all the top scoring gymnasts from every team, even if you just end up using them for backup. These are the kind of girls you want for when someone gets injured or rests for the week. Nebraska's Emily Wong and Minnesota's Lindsay Mable were always dark horse's for us in fantasy gym. They were putting up scores of 9.9+ on every event, every week and a lot of people probbably didn't even consider ranking them in the top five for drafting. We would put them up third and fourth and be almost guranteed a strong all-around gymnast (while everyone else fights for the top all-arounders from the top teams.) Think smart when you rank your gymnasts!

7. Don't wait until the last second!
Drafting a strong team takes time! It's not something that you have to do all at once. (Unless that's how you roll.) Take your time! Continue to research and update your team until the deadline!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

CGA Strong

The 2014 season was all about staying strong for Mary Lee Tracy and her elite team. Despite some minor setbacks throughout the course of the year, the CGA elites managed to stay positive and finish on a high note. The gym's motto is "CGA Strong" which stands for strong bodies, strong minds, and strong friendships; something that each girl embodies on and off the competition floor. Amelia Hundley, a standout on the junior scene for many years, finally made the transition into the senior ranks placing fourth on floor at the Secret US Classic and sixth all-around at the P&G Championships. Although she wasn't at her best, Amelia still won the crowd over with her upbeat style and fun personality. There's no doubt that her performance, especially on floor, is always a fan favorite! Amelia's results from Classics and Championships were good enough to earn her a spot on the Pan American team- her first senior international assignment, where she helped Team USA win a gold medal. Not too shabby for someone who spent the beginning of the season sidelined by injury! "Amelia had a great season after a major ankle surgery," Mary Lee explained to us. "She felt great about her performance and how she finished at Championships and the World Selection camp. Pan Ams was a little disappointing, but Amelia learned a lot at her first senior international competition." Mary Lee added that while they are enjoying the off season, Amelia is planning to add more difficulty and improve her execution on every event. As the only senior member of the elite group, Amelia naturally fits the role of team leader. With five years of elite level experience and a recurring ankle injury behind her, she knows better than anyone what being strong is all about.

Photo Credit: John Cheng
This year Mary Lee also brought two fresh new faces to the elite scene, Abigail Matthews and Aria Brush. Abigail competed in the Secret US Classic where she gained some experience competing on a podium and of course built her confidence leading into next season. Aria qualified to the P&G Championships where she placed nineteenth all-around and fourth on bars, a feat that was nothing short of successful! "They had a great season and accomplished their personal goals," Mary Lee said. "Adjusting to the level of intensity that comes with competing at this level fit their personalities!" Abigail and Aria are a work in progress for Mary Lee. While they didn't top the rankings this year, they still showed potential to grow and the ability to persevere. With the first year of elite now under their belts, we can hopefully expect to see two more confident and polished athletes next season.

Photo Credit: John Cheng
Mary Lee has a reputation of producing some of the strongest junior gymnasts in the country and she is always on the look out for girls who show potential. When asked how she knows when a gymnast is ready to make the transition from level 10 to elite, she admits it's a tough decision. "When an athlete truly knows why they want to be an elite and that matches their work ethic and attitude...it is time!" she says. Elite gymnasts not only have to be physically gifted, but they have to make a lot of sacrifices and be willing to work hard every single day. "One of the hardest things for a coach is seeing talent that does not work hard and hard workers that are not physically gifted." Mary Lee says. Once an athlete makes the jump to the elite level, they must continue to up their skill level while staying healthy- physically and mentally, something that Mary Lee says is the toughest part about coaching at the elite level. Many elite gymnasts struggle with injuries during their career and the CGA girls have been no exception. Unfortunately, many of Mary Lee's past gymnasts have struggled with an injury in the midst in their career, making it hard for them to peak at the right time. Staying healthy and on top of the elite scene for several years is not easy and since every athlete is different, the recipe for staying healthy varies from athlete to athlete. Mary Lee likes to make sure her girls are physically strong and as fit as possible, while reminding them that every turn counts. Less repetitions means less pounding on the body which is crucial to survive at this level. While training for 30 plus hours a week, keeping up on school work and trying to maintain a "normal" teenage social life, it can be easy to lose focus and motivation to keep going every day. One of the ways Mary Lee keeps her girls motivated is by reviewing their goals and the "whys" of competing at the elite level. Asking yourself "why did I choose to do elite gymnastics?" and reminding them of the goals they set is a good way to put any athlete back on track. She mentions that it's also good to change things up a bit and have some fun along the way, whether that be playing games or having contests with prizes. "They are kids!" she adds.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for Mary Lee this season was losing two of her biggest stars Lexie Priessman and Emily Gaskins. Lexie, a former junior national champion left CGA a few months before the start of the elite competition season, a move that shocked many gym fans. Since departing from CGA, Lexie and Mary Lee have maintained a good relationship and have stated that it was for the best. However, a lot of people were worried about how Amelia would adapt to this sudden change. The pair are best known for their inseparable friendship both in and out of the gym and they really seemed to thrive off each other. From the start, Mary Lee had no worries. "Both girls are doing what they need to do and they respect each other for that. Outside of the gym they are still friends and they just leave gym at the gym. I knew Amelia would be fine, she is an individual with her own goals!" Shortly after the P&G Championships (where she placed 6th all around) Emily Gaskins, another budding CGA star, moved back to her hometown in Florida to train at Intensity Gymnastics with her former coach. There is no doubt it was a devastating loss for Mary Lee and the CGA team, however she is optimistic about the future stating that she is "always working on the next class" and looking to learn from previous mistakes. "I have always had an issue with keeping my expectations in line with each individual athlete," she admits. "It's challenging to keep your passions and desires in line with the athletes." Learning from the past, looking toward the future, and never giving up is what makes Mary Lee and her team truly "CGA Strong."

Photo Credit: Mary Lee Tracy

Friday, November 14, 2014

10 Things You Don't Know About...Delanie Harkness

1. My favorite color is black.
2. I recently went to the Dominican Republic. 
3. My best friend is Ashley Bremer!
4. I love my family.
5. I love the beach.
6. My favorite movie is "If I Stay"
7. I have two dogs.
8. I love to shop. 
9. My favorite animal is a turtle. 
10. I love Q'Doba!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dear Gymternet- Journals from Elena Arenas (Entry #5 October 2014)

Dear Gymternet, 

I've had really fun and exciting times this past month!  I was selected to represent the USA at the Pan American Gymnastics Union camp (PAGU) along with one of my best friends, Maile O'Keefe.  I also went on my very first recruiting trip to UGA.

When I found out I was going to PAGU, I was so excited!  I was at the ranch for camp last month when I found out and I couldn't wait until I could tell my mom!  I knew they were only selecting two gymnasts to go and I didn't know who the other person was until the next day and when they told me it was Maile I was super happy!  I texted Maile after gym that night and we were both wondering what it would be like and hoping that some of the girls will know English. Haha!

Elena with Maile O'Keefe

A few weeks later I got my USA apparel in the mail and it was so much fun opening up the box.  My dad/coach was out of town visiting family when it came and he wanted me to wait for him to open it, but I couldn't wait to see what was inside!  I got three USA leos, a shirt, a bag and shorts.  My dream of representing the USA was coming true!  I am going to keep training really hard the next couple of weeks so I can be as prepared as possible for PAGU.

Going on my first recruiting trip was very exciting!  It was at UGA and I couldn't wait to see the campus.  It was fun to share this experience with my teammate (Sami Durante).  First we watched the Gym Dogs workout, then we took a golf cart to go eat. Sami and I sat on the back of the golf cart which was fun because I've never done that!  We then spelled out a word using our bodies around campus.  The next day we went to the football game and then we all hung out afterwards.  It was so much fun and I hope to get to explore other colleges in the future!

Right now I am on my way to the ranch for developmental camp.  I'm very excited to show what I'm working and see all of my friends!  Right when we get there, I always run to the bulletin board to see who my roommates are.  Today I have physical abilities testing ... wish me luck! :)

~ Elena

Note: Elena wrote this while on her way to the ranch. Due to poor service in the area, this entry is a few days late. Elena is now back home and training for the PAGU camp!

Elena also received her "Triple Twist" t-shirt a few weeks ago. It may be a few sizes too big, but she still rocks it!