Underwood comes out on top at state meet

Terrin Waack, Staff Writer

Not only did Cary-Grove’s gymnastics team come home with the silver from their state experience, but they also have a state champion among them.

Junior Rachel Underwood took first in the vault category, scoring a 9.8 due to difficulty and execution. While she got to stand with her team for the silver, she also got to stand alone with the individual gold.

“State is very exciting, but at the same time it can be very overwhelming,” Underwood said of her weekend. “I love walking into the arena filled with tons of people who came to watch. It makes me more excited than anything. I try not to get too nervous because I feel I do better when I’m relaxed.”

While flying through the air in her vault routine, which can be seen in this video, Underwood must have been relaxed since she performed her routine strongly. However, routines and stunts like that don’t come easily, and there is a great deal of training involved.

“Our season started in November, so we’ve been training since then, but we train year round – even in the summer,” Underwood said. “We practice four hours a day, five days a week, and put a lot into gymnastics. We train at Crystal Lake Gymnastics and also participate in club gymnastics there once high school gymnastics ends.”

Clearly all that hard work has paid off for the team and Underwood individually. With such a title like state champion, Underwood knows how exciting it is,

“I feel like I am getting so much recognition for winning vault – more than I thought I would,” she said. “But I’m really happy with myself on that part.”

Many people around C-G are proud of Underwood, including her boyfriend, Danny Nick, who was in the audience cheering her on. He said he wasn’t the only one; it seemed that the whole audience was really excited to see her land such a hard skill.

“I was real happy with how she performed,” Nick said. “I was also really glad she could implement all that I taught her so she could come home with the state title. You don’t think I can do a dang flip? If a girl can do it, I can do it. I’d like to take some credit in Rachel’s skills.”

Although Nick is joking around, Underwood’s skills are serious. At state, she performed all-around which includes not only vault, but bars, beam, and floor. While her vault routine earned her first place, to Underwood, bars are her favorite and have been ever since she was little.

With gymnastics being such a demanding sport – mentally, physically, and in time commitment – Underwood and the rest of the team will continue training even though state is now in the past. As Underwood mentioned, there’s no off-season. To Underwood, though, that’s not the worst part about gymnastics.

“The worst part of gymnastics is when you’re working on getting a new skill and it just isn’t coming along,” Underwood said. “It’s just so frustrating sometimes.”

Nick agreed, having seen her effort and frustration firsthand.

“I know she puts in a lot of work,” he said, “and she worked really hard to get her first state title.”

In the long run, hard work pays off and the Cary-Grove gymnasts showed that this past weekend. While it may not be easy to attend gymnastics meets throughout the year, Nick says that going to the meets is something “more students should take advantage of due to all the talent on the team.”

And with a majority of the team – including Underwood – being juniors or younger, there’s always next year to return to state.