One Day At A Time…
The 2012-2013 Indiana High School Athletic Association gymnastics season will come to an end Saturday with state finals competition at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena. Good, bad or indifferent... it will most assuredly come to an end.
Owen Valley freshman gymnast Anna Watkin, who trains full-time at Cathleen’s Gymnastics on State Road 43S just outside of Spencer, is ready to take this huge step in OV gymnastics history. She’s trained nearly her entire life to get to this moment in time. Her skills are honed, her elements in place, her tricks prepared... she’s ready.
As a staff writer for the Spencer Evening World, I’ve covered Owen Valley gymnastics for the past five years. I’ve watched as the girls have triumphed, as they’ve fallen… I’ve seen tears flow in defeat and smiles reign in victory. This season, when I stepped into the gymnasium at Bloomington South High School for OV’s first meet of the year, something seemed different. There was an edge, a swagger to the team. Not an overconfidence, mind you, just a realization that things were on the upswing for Lady Patriot gymnastics.
The meet started off well and I watched as each Lady Patriot – Caitlin Norman, Graceson Arthur and Anna Watkin – ‘hit their routine.’ At the conclusion of the day, the team had its best showing in the history of the sport at Owen Valley. The girls finished second with a score of 98.25, behind Seymour, a team that placed fifth at state last year. To put this into perspective… OV placed fifth at the same meet in 2012 with a score of 93.775. Standing on the podium at the end of the day, you could see the pride and excitement in their eyes as they held their heads a bit higher.
After that first meet, the team kept showing what they were made of, posting increased team scores each and every time. A big part of that success can be attributed to Anna. I remember, following a team win at Southmont in late January, thinking… ‘this Anna kid is going to make some noise at sectional this year,’ and following her all-around win and another team win at Bloomington North in early February, I remember saying out loud… ‘this girl is going to state.’ Now, am I psychic… the answer is emphatically, no… but I’ve been around sports and student-athletes long enough to recognize dedication, heart and a force to be reckoned with. I saw it in the 2009 girls’ basketball state runner-up team and in OV’s Randy Lientz and Cloverdale’s James Hinton as they made it to state in track and field… and I see it again in young Anna Watkin.
You see, Anna’s high-flying tricks and confidence on apparatus such as the balance beam haven’t always been the norm.
“It makes me laugh now when she’s on beam and she’s top in the state,” coach Cathleen McPhee shared, “because when I first got her, I had to give that young lady a popsicle. I said, ‘Anna, here’s a popsicle and you can have it as long as you stay on the beam… and that meant standing on the beam. She was four years old and couldn’t even stand on the beam and it was a low beam. She had so much potential, you could see it then. I told her that if she fell, the popsicle was mine. That little stinker stayed on the beam the entire time she ate it. After that, she understood what she needed to do… ‘I need to stay on the beam, I need to focus.’”
Sitting down with Anna, you see the fiery competitor in that compact, red-headed young lady, but you also see the amazingly sweet, grounded, all-around good kid who is just beginning her high school gymnastics journey.
She is obviously excited about the trip to state, but is mindful of keeping her nerves in check, as not to let them stand in her way come meet time.
“Coach tells me to do my job and get down and it helps a lot,” Anna said “I just focus on the elements that I do and then get up there, do all my elements and then get down. That’s all the judges are there to see.
“I’m excited that I’ve made it this far as a freshman, but it’s just another meet. I’m super excited because I get to work with all of those higher level girls and I get to see all of their tricks that they are doing.”
“When she sees another gymnast with awesome elements she’s never envious of them,” coach McPhee added. “Her goal is, ‘how can I do that.’ She knows that she can get it.”
“If I work hard and put my heart into it, I can definitely get it. And… I just got back,” Anna noted. “Last meet I had to remember that I’ve only been back for three months so it helps thinking about that. Sometimes I like the pressure, I love the crowd, I love showing off (my skills).
“She does… because it takes (the focus) away from any fears,” coach McPhee said. “I know she has fears out there, because she’s been injured.
“I was doing a back tuck. I went back and it (my shoulder) dislocated, ripping the labrum off, but I landed it,” Anna explained.
After sitting out for seven months and doing hours upon hours of physical therapy, she came back to make her high school debut in January and hasn’t looked back.
For Anna, gymnastics and all the time put into training all these years has been a labor of love.
“When I was in elementary, I was always here at the gym, Anna said. “Everyone would always ask why I didn’t come to birthday parties or anything. I would tell them that I’m always here at the gym. Everyone would tell me that I was wasting my time, all through middle school. That’s one of the things that I’m happy about, that I love about high school – people have told me, ‘you’re actually good, you’re going to state.’ I want people to know that I’m not wasting my time here because I’m here five days a week.”
“It funny… at sectionals, we didn’t know that she had won,” coach McPhee said. At one point, she looked at me and said, ‘does that mean I’m not going to get anything?’ after they called for third place and she just put her head down.”
“Then I heard second and I heard ‘Daran’ and I was like… ‘she did so much better,’ just by looking because I didn’t pay attention to any of my scores. “I thought, ‘oh, I’m out… and then they called first place Anna Watkin,” Anna said, grinning.
“Whatever she does at state, we will be pleased. She’s the kind of athlete that if something went wrong, it wasn’t because of her non-focus,” coach McPhee said. “If something happens, it happens, but she’s always a great competitor.”
Anna will compete in the 41st annual IHSAA Gymnastics State Finals this coming Saturday, March 16, at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena in Muncie. The venue opens at 11:30 a.m. and opening ceremonies kick off at 12:30 p.m. Competition begins at 1:00 p.m. Admission is $9.
I, along with my colleagues at the Spencer Evening World, want to take this opportunity to wish Anna and her coaches all the best on Saturday. If you can make the trip to Muncie to help support Anna, do so. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. The level of competition looks to be amazing. If you are not able to make the trip, stay tuned to the Spencer Evening World for complete coverage of Anna’s trip to the 2013 IHSAA state gymnastics finals.
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