ALTHOUGH she was happy to qualify for the Gymnastics State Finals as an individual last season, Daran Brady wasn’t as thrilled as she is this year.
That’s because Brady will have her Columbus East teammates with her Saturday afternoon at Ball State University. Led by Brady’s all-around championship, the Olympians recently won their first regional title since 2001.
“It’s going to be awesome because when you’re by yourself, you kind of have to cheer yourself on,” Brady said. “Your teammates are in the stands, but it’s a whole different environment having them right beside you competing with you.”
This will be Brady’s fourth trip to the state meet. East qualified as a team her freshman year, and she made it in the all-around as a sophomore.
Last year, Brady suffered an ankle injury a week before the sectional and could only do the bars in the postseason. Still, she qualified for state in that event. After the state meet, doctors discovered she had a broken foot.
“I think that breaking my foot really helped me because I’ve never been really strong on bars; and after I broke my foot, all I could do is bars. So it really improved my all-around score by getting my bars score up,” Brady said.
Brady underwent surgery in April and was away from gymnastics until September.
“I think the time off really helped me improve in my other events,” Brady said. “This is the best season I’ve ever had in my high school gymnastics career, so I feel good about it.”
“I think she’s significantly upgraded routines and has been more consistent this year in all areas than she has in other years,” East coach Nancy Kirshman said. “(Floor) is a strong point for her. She’s a good vaulter. She’s a good beam worker when she’s aggressive at it, and she’s become a good bar worker. Bars used to be her downfall.”
In last week’s East Regional, Brady won the bars with a 9.35. She also won the floor with a 9.7 on her way to scoring a 37.4 in the all-around.
“I was so torn up about not being able to compete (in the all-around) last year,” Brady said. “It just made this year where I was more grateful.”
Although her foot has healed, this season hasn’t been without injuries for Brady. She broke a finger the week before the season-opener.
“I just tape it up,” Brady said. “It doesn’t hurt that bad, so I just suck it up. It’s just a finger.”
“She has an outstanding work ethic,” Kirshman said. “She really works hard at what she does and looks at all aspects. She’s a good kid to coach because she listens, pays attention to what you say and tries to make corrections. In the offseason, she’s there all the time working on things.”
Brady’s leadership skills also have risen after attending the IHSAA Leadership Conference three times.
“She’s developed into a good leader,” Kirshman said. “Girls have problems being leaders I think sometimes because they’re afraid they’re going to hurt somebody’s feelings. If you’re on a guy’s team, some other guy just tells you the way it is, and you do it; but girls have a little trouble with that. But both of them (Brady and fellow senior Molly Boggs) have developed into good leaders and are not afraid to let their teammates know when it’s unacceptable the way they’re practicing or what they’re doing.”
The Olympians are hoping for a top-four finish Saturday, which would put them on the medals stand and earn them a picture for the school’s Wall of Fame. Brady also wants to get on the podium with a top-six finish in an event or the all-around.
No matter how she finishes, the state meet figures to be the end of Brady’s competitive gymnastics career. She plans to attend the University of Southern Indiana and become a cheerleader. The school does not have a gymnastics team.
“That’s why I’m taking it all in and trying to remember everything,” Brady said. “It’s the last meet I’ll ever have, so I’m just trying to remember it.”