This might have been the longest gymnastics season ever this year—in both the worst and best ways. Despite the wear and tear on all of us from moving around so much the last few years, we've had some truly stellar gyms to land in—good atmospheres, good coaches, good teammates, good parent support, etc. Our year in Albuquerque brought the girls all of those things plus some lifelong friends for all of us. Moving away was hard. The girls went back to their old Cheyenne gym when we arrived this summer; even though things didn't end particularly well before we left in the move of 2013, we decided to give it another chance for multiple reasons: fresh start, new facility, etc.
It ended up being a disaster. For multiple reasons.
We switched gyms to the only other option in Cheyenne right after Thanksgiving (the city-run Parks & Recreation program), after more hand-wringing and advice-seeking and trepidation than is good for a family. We measured distances and cost and time commitment required to travel to Fort Collins, and came up with the same answer no matter how we looked at that equation: CRAZY. For gymnasts who spend 4-6 days of every week at the gym year round, a 50 minute drive at nearly twice the tuition just didn't reconcile right now. It was a difficult decision that came with letting go of a whole lot of baggage (long story) but it was the very best decision that we didn't expect to work out as well as it did. I would say one of the biggest highlights of the year was addressing that baggage, deciding to set it down, and watching it dissipate into the ether almost immediately. It was nothing short of miraculous, and we are so much lighter for it.
Because of the gym switch, Bridget got to compete in two separate seasons: the Colorado circuit which stretches from September to December, and the Wyoming circuit which stretches from January-March. All in all we traveled 4,630 miles to and from meets, including the drive I made to and from Denver to pick up our beloved Gianna who came for a choreography workshop.
FOUR THOUSAND PLUS MILES.
Here are some pictures of the highlights to help ease that craziness.
To avoid having the girls be on their own to choreograph their routines, we managed to hire Gianna to fly up from Albuquerque to run a two day intensive workshop. She is a masterful choreographer, and the routines she designed were wonderful. We miss her terribly but happily got to see her two other times during the season—at Winterfest in Denver, and at Regionals last weekend in Albuquerque.
Bee's First Meet in Sleeves
It's kind of a big deal when you move to long-sleeved competition leos, and Bridget was super-excited to compete in hers as a Level 3 last fall. (Less highlight-y: having to pay for three competition leos and warmups for a gym we left, but as many people pointed out it isn't worth sticking around just because you bought them.) She had a relatively OK season—threw her round-off back handspring at every meet, getting stronger and stronger as the season went on. It was a big challenge that she worked on very hard with her beloved Coach Stacey in Albuquerque before we moved.
Discovering a Secret Tattered Cover
OK, so this isn't exactly gymnastics-related, but it was still a highlight—on the way home from one of the many Denver meets last fall we stopped for lunch at Noodles & Co. in a fancy strip mall (lifestyle shopping center?) and discovered there was A TATTERED COVER NEXT DOOR. Happy days! We enjoyed a post-meet bookstore adventure and our noodles very much.
And then we switched gyms and things got so much better.
Here's a glimpse of that. Seriously. I have more to say about this particular facility in another post, but for now, I'll just repeat it was an #awesomeawesome decision.
The Crazy Sock Christmas Party
One of the benefits of switching was that our new gym has a very active team booster club that does fun stuff like have a Crazy Sock party for Christmas. Gymnasts are solo competitors, but teams are so important and it was nice that Maddie and Gracie especially had some different kids besides each other to look at all the time.
The First Meet of the Season
All three girls were able to borrow old competition leos for their first meet as Cheyenne Gymnastics gymnasts because we had to order them so late into the season. (If you're counting, we have SIX different competition leo + warmup sets now since all this competition stuff kicked off in 2010). They are bright. They are loud. But we've grown to not mind them as much. They lost a lot of time between June and November on skills training, but they felt ready enough to compete as Level 7s (and Bridget got four more bonus meets out of the deal). They qualified to compete at state at their first meet in Casper and that was a huge relief.
Having This Photo on My Phone For a Few Months
So this photo has nothing to do with the Dillow girls, but my dear college friend Alicia texted it to me and it was a highlight all the same. Her daughter trains in the same gym in Texas as Simone, so it's practically like we do, too. Haha. Alicia is one of my gym mom confidantes and I wish we lived in the same town.
That Time Bridget Beat Almost All the Ka-Larks in Casper
That Time We Got To Have Dinner With Jessica in Casper
Jessica is one of my beloved former students from Montana, who is now a full-fledged adult with a family of her own who happens to live in Casper; we were able to arrange to meet for dinner after the second Casper meet and it was so much fun to catch up. The last time she saw Maddie was when we hired her to be a weekend nanny when Jill and Curtis got married in 2003, so that was fun, too. Incidentally, Jessica was Maddie's age when I first had her in class. Time just FLIES.
Winterfest at University of Denver
This is probably my favorite meet of the season; the girls have competed at DU three times now and it's just such a cool experience. Even better: Maddie and Gracie were scheduled for the same session as their G Force teammates from last year, so there were many hugs and much happiness to go around. (Maddie has more pictures of her "bigs" teammates from last year that were there too, but I don't seem to have those handy). We really clicked with that gym and those teammates, so it was wonderful to see them if only for a session. Also: Megan came with us, and that was great fun. She plays hockey, so a gymnastics meet was... not like hockey. She had a good time though!
The first picture isn't exactly a highlight, but it is funny. When we got in the car in Cheyenne to drive the 3.5 hours to Rock Springs, it was around 65º. When we got out of the car, it was a raging snowstorm. We weren't exactly prepared the next morning for the cold weather (because when are we prepared for drastic weather changes in the Dillow house?) but it warmed up later and we even found a pink car parked that was worth a U-turn!
I took the gym photos again this year—smaller gym so not as much time as last year but still awfully fun. I kind of tolerated the warmups, but I loved their bright leos—they might be among my favorite of the six sets partially because they were just so different. You can't miss gymnasts from Cheyenne Gymnastics in a gym. Ha.
Grandma was able to come to Rock Springs with us for state which was fantastic! Less fantastic was that we brought Ellie with us as well, because she just can't handle the kennel anymore. She did not enjoy most of her time in Rock Springs. In fact, she didn't enjoy it so much she decided she would show us for bringing her there and threw a fit of dramatic deathbed proportions. Nothing that extending our hotel room for a night so she could take an afternoon nap on a hotel bed couldn't fix. SIGH. Highlight: she perked right up the minute we headed for home. Grandma enjoyed her time on the road far more and did not throw a deathbed fit, thank goodness.
The good news at state: everyone medaled! The bad news: everyone had something that didn't go right. But the good news: they all mostly shook it off. Maddie's "didn't go right" thing was the most alarming; it's a story better told in person, but it was a horrible, awful, and terrible in every way vault story. She brushed herself off and managed to win two gold medals and a bronze medal, earning fourth place all-around and a ticket to Regionals for Region 3 in Albuquerque.
If you're counting, that's four gold medals on balance beam in four different states, four different levels, four consecutive years in a row. (!!)
Gracie missed qualifying by the tiniest of margins and it was a crushing blow that took some time to recover from. But now she is bound and determined to make it next year for sure, and we have no doubt she will.
Two days after state Maddie catastrophically sprained her ankle. It was bad. Capital B Bad. However...
She did the hard work to get her sprain healed and even though we weren't sure she could pull it off, maybe even to the point of scratching one or more events, she DID IT. All four events, no further injury, and a 9.325 on floor with that beautiful floor routine that Gianna created for her back in September, the one she earned a gold medal for at state. It wasn't her best showing of the season but it was her most triumphant for sure. Our trip to Albuquerque last weekend marked the end of the season. It was really fun to share the experience with some very good Air Force friends who live in Albuquerque (incidentally, some of who are also hockey players) plus some G Force teammates who came to cheer her on. She got hugs from her old coaches, all kinds of good encouragement from her current coach, and the loudest cheering section in the room. Will, who is right in front, shouted in his little six year old Will voice: YOU CAN DO IT MADDIE! NOTHING CAN BRING YOU DOWN! during her beam routine and it might have been the sweetest thing ever.
They all can do it. They work hard, harder, and harder still, and they still love it. Which means I guess we'll be back for another year.