Guilderland gymnasts trade risk for reward
GUILDERLAND — Flipping and flying through the air has its risks, but, for a gymnast, landing on two feet reaps a greater reward.
Amid a sea of different shades of pink for its annual “Think Pink” meet that raises money to fight breast cancer, the Guilderland gymnasts landed a vast majority of their tricks last Friday at Lynnwood Elementary.
There were pink ribbons, pink outfits, pink make-up — and pink hair dye worn by Assistant Coach Steve Swider. When a Guilderland gymnast flipped through the air, it was like a blurred cloud of cotton candy, and when another rotated elegantly on the balance beam, it was like watching a flamingo.
“All gymnasts have to be risk-takers; we wouldn’t be doing it otherwise,” said Guilderland junior Naomi Downes, who had the best Dutch score (7.70) on the uneven bars. “For me, it’s mostly about having fun.”
Ninth-grader Emma Drislane does a difficult vault called the Yurchenko, named after a Soviet gymnast, pulling a backhand spring onto the springboard. Drislane says that fear comes with being a gymnast.
“In the end, everything pays off,” she added. “You just have to trust yourself and your coaches.”
The Guilderland coaches — Head Coach Brenda Goodnight and Swider — would never make a gymnast do tricks she wasn’t comfortable with, Drislane said.
However, that doesn’t mean that the Dutch gymnasts don’t push some limits.
“It’s a combination of strength, balance, and mind,” said Downes, a member of the Guilderland team since seventh grade. “Everyone gets nervous, I think. When that happens to me, I take a deep breath and visualize what I’m going to do.”
Last Friday was Drislane’s first competition of the season; she was recovering from a broken toe. Last year, Drislane missed three to four months after breaking her right ankle on a backwards tuck, also spraining her left ankle at the same time.
“Gymnastics is definitely dangerous, but I like the risk,” said Drislane. “There’s nerves, a lot of nerves, but you have to overcome the fear. You have to be safe with your skill set, only doing what you can do.”
Downes said she broke her finger once, but that’s been her only broken bone. More than anything, her muscles get pulled, she said.
“I’m a lot better than I used to be,” said Downes, who started gymnastics at age 9. “I had no idea what I was doing when I started, but it seemed like fun.”
Drislane said that, when she was really young, she would always be hanging upside down. Her mother, Melissa Drislane, signed her up for a gymnastics class.
“I liked to watch television upside down,” she said.
Last Friday, Drislane completed her first “hiccup,” which is a release move from the low bar to the high bar on the uneven bars. Her routine had a start value of 9.7, but she finished with a 7.55.
“Your start value depends on your skills,” said Drislane. “I’m pretty average for my age, but I’m trying to get as far as I physically can.”
Downes’s favorite event is the balance beam, and it was the highest score (8.45) she posted last Friday. “You can dance, tumble, and jump on it,” she said.
Guilderland raised $540 for breast cancer research, at the annual event, for which they charged admission.
Drislane said that her grandmother, Joann, battled the disease, and beat it. Luckily, Downes said, she doesn’t know anyone who had to fight cancer.
Here are Guilderland’s results from last Friday’s meet against Saratoga:
— Naomi Downes, 7.15 on vault, 7.70 on uneven bars, 8.45 on balance beam, and 8.10 on floor exercise;
— Emily Borges, 8.20 on vault, 8.15 on uneven bars, 8.10 on balance beam, and 8.20 on floor exercise;
— Marina Christman, 7.40 on vault, 5.00 on uneven bars, 8.30 on balance beam, and 7.90 on floor exercise;
— Serena Munoz, 8.15 on vault, 6.85 on uneven bars, 8.60 on balance beam, 8.80 on floor exercise;
— Emma Drislane, 7.40 on vault, 7.55 on uneven bars, 7.40 on balance beam, and 8.50 on floor exercise;
— Megan Szesnat, 7.90 on vault, 7.05 on uneven bars, and 7.60 on balance beam;
— Sydney Iapoce, 7.50 on vault, 5.40 on uneven bars, 6.80 on balance beam, and 7.50 on floor exercise;
— Riley McCutcheon, 7.40 on vault, 3.40 on uneven bars, and 7.70 on balance beam;
— Courtney Raferty, 7.30 on vault, 7.00 on balance beam, and 7.10 on floor exercise;
— Rachel Drislane, 7.85 on vault, 4.90 on uneven bars, 8.00 on balance beam, and 8.00 on floor exercise;
— Shea Thomson, 8.10 on vault, 6.40 on uneven bars, 7.80 on balance beam, and 8.70 on floor exercise;
— Amanda Nieman, 7.80 on vault, 7.20 on uneven bars, 7.95 on balance beam, and 8.80 on floor exercise; and
— Isabella Bruno, 7.90 on vault, 6.00 on uneven bars, 7.50 on balance beam, and 7.40 on floor exercise.