Wednesday, February 4, 2004
It was January and little Genna Bradley had a teardrop in her eye.
Bradley, usually smiling and bouncing all over the gym, felt out of place at her second Level 7 meet.
Her warmups went poorly, but coach Deirdre Bernard had the right words of encouragement ready for the promising 11-year-old gymnast.
"I let her know she belonged there," Bernard said.
It took Bradley 30 minutes to figure out what her coach already knew. Bradley went on to post a score of 34.50 in the all-around competition at Chatfield, placing fifth to qualify for the Level 7 state gymnastics meet March 19 and 20 in Denver.
"I got a lot better," Bradley said when comparing her meet performance to warmups. "I realized I did fit in, and I was supposed to be there."
Bradley finished no lower than fifth on any of her four individual events, scoring an 8.90 on balance beam, an 8.60 on uneven bars and an 8.50 each on floor exercise and vault.
After struggling on the balance beam when she was younger, Bradley has started to make the beam her best event.
"It was just getting used to it," she said.
Bradley started out the season as the lone Level 7 gymnast within the Steamboat Gymnastics Center, but she soon will have company.
Rochelle Johnson, 16, is planning to compete in Saturday's Level 7 meet in Denver. Johnson lives in Craig but trains in Steamboat under Bernard and several other coaches. Under their guidance, Johnson has gone from a Level 5 gymnast to an entry Level 7 athlete in just seven months, which is quite an accomplishment, Bernard said.
Level 7 athletes are allowed to begin performing their own routines, whereas Level 5 and 6 gymnasts have set routines to follow.
"She is so dedicated," Bernard said of Johnson, who comes several times a week from Craig to practice. "She has an inner strength that no one taught that child. She had wonderful basics from Craig, but she needed more upper-level training."
In addition to Bradley and Johnson, Jaime Winter, 11, plans to compete in her first Level 7 meet Feb. 27 in Grand Junction.
Winter was expected to have a Level 7 meet behind her at this point, but she is half a year behind after suffering a heel injury that put her in a cast last year.
Her injury, however, didn't put her in the bleachers. Winter didn't miss a workout, Bernard said. Instead of working with her legs, Winter focused on her upper and middle body, as her heel healed.
"She taught everyone about inner strength," Bernard said.
Winter and Johnson haven't competed in a Level 7 meet, but Bradley is looking forward to having teammates with her in the future.
"It's nice having someone there to support you and cheer you on," Bradley said. "If you have a bad score, they can help you out, and if you have a good score, they can rub it in -- in a good way."
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org