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THE odds of Columbus North freshman Katrina May winning an event at the Gymnastics State Finals on Saturday at Ball State University aren’t very good.
But there is an excellent chance that something very special will happen, probably on her favorite event, the uneven bars.
“You can just get up enough speed to let go and fly,” she said with a faraway look and a big smile.
May has been flying through the air on gymnastics equipment since she was 4 years old. Her babysitter’s family included gymnasts, and she often tagged along to attend meets.
“I begged my mother (Angela May) to let me try it.”
The young and fearless May began an athletics career with Jody’s Gymnastics that included many medals and lots of pain.
She rattles off her list of broken bones.
“I broke my right ankle twice, when I was 10 and 12, and my left ankle when I was 11.
“I broke the growth plate in my right knee and my elbow when I was 12. I broke my right heel when I was 13.
“I broke my left foot once when I was 14, and I’ve also had some stress fractures. And once when I was little, I was doing the bars and I slipped off because my hands were small. I lost my grip. I landed and my feet swung over my head, and I twisted the vertebrae in my back.”
Her father, David May, often has asked her to find a different passion.
“He says he wants me to be able to walk when I am older,” she said. “But I love this so much.”
Many things have changed for May in her freshman year of high school. First, she has been healthy all season.
Next, she has faced one thing that most gymnasts encounter as they mature.
No, she still is willing to practice difficult routines and dangerous skills. But she no longer is the little girl who simply would launch herself into the air.
“When I was little, I would go throw anything that somebody asked me to do,” she said at North’s practice Monday. “I now realize that you could get hurt. I think that gets you mentally stuck on some things. I guess that started to happen when I was 11. I still will do (difficult skills), but it can be really scary learning it.”
Another huge factor was totally unexpected.
She grew 8 inches in the past year to 5-foot-5. She has grown so quickly that she “aches all the time.”
That growth spurt, which she loves in the grand scheme of life, has been cause for some excitement and worry when it comes to her favorite sport.
“My vault has gotten extremely better,” she said. “Growing, I’ve got so much more power.
“The bars were a different story. Being tall makes you hit your legs on the bottom bar, or the mat, although the bar hurts a lot more.
“But you can swing faster.”
Back to that flying thing again.
North gymnastics coach Sandy Freshour said May has handled all of her challenges beautifully.
“You can tell when you are getting kids through their adolescent growth spurt,” Freshour said. “It does throw off their timing.
“With Katrina, you could spot it. You could tell the timing of her tumbling skills was off. But dance-wise, long legs can score beautifully.”
Freshour said a large dose of patience was in order, and May responded well. She noted that many of her gymnasts come from a club environment.
“They can be pretty set in their ways,” Freshour said. “That can be a blessing if they are good.
“There also is a little bit of a trial period as they are getting to know us. You have to work through the communication and getting to know each other’s personalities.”
May’s personality fit right into the program.
“Katrina is very determined,” Freshour said. “She is as hard on herself as any coach. She works so hard to make things right.”
She goes into the state meet at Worthen Arena needing some help from the gymnasts ranked above her if she expects to finish high. There also is added pressure as North senior Danielle McDermott, the Bull Dogs’ top hope, has a sprained ankle that knocked her out of most events in the regional and could prevent her from carrying her team to a top five finish.
The Bull Dogs, who won Conference Indiana and sectional titles, might look for May to lead them.
“At the state meet, the level of gymnastics is multiplied by 10,” Freshour said. “But Katrina is a focused athlete. You will see her maturity level. She will be nervous, but I expect her to do well under pressure.”
May admits that McDermott’s injury raises the pressure level.
“I will try to do my best to help out the team,” she said. “But you also have to worry a little about yourself.”
She would love to nail a routine on one of the events to earn a medal, but more than anything, she would love to place in the all-around. “I think it’s pretty cool to say you are good at one thing,” she said. “But to say you are really good at everything is exciting.”
Whether she gets a medal or not, May intends to soar high.
“I know there always is going to be somebody out there who is better,” she said. “But, honestly, gymnastics is fun.”
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