Back for more: Worthington’s Svalland returns to state gymnastics meetWORTHINGTON — Tara Svalland admits she was a little scared. Competing for the first time in the Class A state gymnastics meet a year ago, Svalland wasn’t sure what to expect.
By: Aaron Hagen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Tara Svalland admits she was a little scared.
Competing for the first time in the Class A state gymnastics meet a year ago, Svalland wasn’t sure what to expect.
“It was scary,” said Svalland as she was taking a break from practice Tuesday afternoon. “It was at the (University of Minnesota), so everyone is looking down at you and watching you. I was just young then, I didn’t know what was happening.”
But that was last year.
This time around, Svalland beams with self-confidence as a more polished and mature gymnast.
“I’m not going to be as nervous,” Svalland said. “I know what’s going to be coming. I know that everyone that’s going there to watch me is going to be watching me. They are going to be there for me.
A year after qualifying in one event, the sophomore is returning to state in both the vault and the floor in Saturday’s individual competition at the Sports Pavilion at the University of Minnesota.
Svalland will be joined by Jackson County Central’s Sydnee Donnelli (bars, vault and all around), Courtney Donnelli (floor), Brandi Sether-Hassing (bars) and Adriane Rentschler (beam).
“I really wanted to go on floor and still score a 9.3 or around there, which I did,” Svalland said of her section meet. “On vault, I wanted to go out and do my best and get a high score.”
Last year, she finished 11th in Class A on the vault.
“She handled the pressure really well,” WHS head coach Joni Reitmeier said. “I think she felt like, ‘I’m going to go out there and give it my all and that’s the best I can do.’ She did her first vault and it wasn’t very good. I was like, ‘Come on Tara, you can do it, 110 percent.’ She nailed the next one like there was nothing to it. She scored a 9.45, which is an excellent score at the state tournament. I was proud of her. As a coach, you want your competitors to go to the state meet and do the best they can. She totally did that.”
It was Reitmeier’s first experience at state, as well.
“It was like, ‘Wow, I’m really here and look at all these people,’” the coach said. “There were tons of good gymnasts there and you kind of feel like a fish in a big pond. I think she handled the pressure well for being able to go out there and do the best that she can. She’s was 11th in the state on the vault in her ninth-grade year. What more can you ask?
“We kind of got all the kinks worked out. We’re going to stay in the same hotel. We know exactly where we’re going to drive to, we know exactly what to do and what to expect. We’re not going to be running around with our heads cut off like we were last year.”
With both coach and competitor accustomed to the environment, Svalland is ready to make her presence felt.
“I’m doing floor this year and I still want to score in the 9s, that will be one big accomplishment,” she said. “On the vault, I want to place this year. Hopefully I will on floor, too.”
Since last season, Svalland has improved. Come Saturday, she wants to show the rest of the state.
“I’m physically and mentally better,” she said. “I believe in myself more than I did last year. I’m just wanting state to come so I can show everyone how much I’ve improved.”
Her coach already sees the difference.
“She’s been very consistent this year with her performances and she’s been getting better and better each meet,” Reitmeier said. “I think there are only better things to come from Tara. She’s in 10th grade. She’s very athletic and a very talented lady. It’s only going to go up from here as long as she stays motivated, which I think she is. She’s a talented person in lots of aspects of life. This is only going to make her better.”
Some of Svalland’s confidence came out of last year’s state meet.
“You can’t ever doubt yourself,” she said. “You see what people are doing before you and then when you go, you see that your score are up there like the other girls. You don’t have to feel down because you’re not as good.”
As a multi-sport athlete, Svalland admits she likes gymnastics the best.
“I think it’s more mental than the other sports,” she said. “You have to go out there and believe you can do it. You’re going out there by yourself, you’re not going out there in a group of six or something like that.”
Coincidently enough, her two favorite events are vault and floor.
“I think that on floor, it’s just you,” Svalland said. “Someone told me that when you’re out there, you have to be the center of attention. It’s just you and you have to show them what you got. You can’t ever hold your head down and you have to hold it high so everyone knows who you are.
“It’s just me out there. I have the whole mat to myself. For once, I can open up.”
As someone who can naturally jump, vault is an obvious strength for the sophomore.
“I just like it,” Svalland said. “When you’re launch off the vault, it feels like you’re flying. It’s just the part that up there so high. You never think you can get that high, but you actually are.”
After scoring a 9.3 in the Section 3A meet to finish third, there is a long-awaited vault ready to be unleashed Saturday.
“It’s coming,” Svalland said. “I’m hopefully trying to get it before state. But if not, then definitely next year because I’m (really) close.”
She has also added new elements to her floor in a routine she scored a 9.3 to finish second at the section meet.
“We’ve changed a couple things on her floor routine already,” Reitmeier said. “There is one pass that we’ve talked about changing. She’s been working on that. It’s not a for sure, but she’s a phenomenal gymnast and if she can get it and she can land it here in practice and she feels confident, I’m going to tell her to go for it.
“She’s been working on a new vault. It’s a hard vault, especially for somebody that’s 5-foot-9. If she nails it and she can do it in practice and she can tell me that she feels confident competing at the state meet, I would let her do it.”
Reitmeier hasn’t put any expectations on her young gymnast — except to do her best.
“She just needs to go out there and nail her routines and she knows that,” the coach said. “I think her expectation of herself is to do the best that she can and that’s what my expectation is for her, too. I don’t think she’ll disappoint anyone with that. Tara goes out and gives full effort and that’s all you can ask a competitor to do is go out there and do your very best and represent Trojan gymnastics the way she has.”
Even with unlimited potential in her next two years, Svalland is enjoying everything as it comes.
“It’s kind of like a dream,” she said. “You go to school and then you come to a place where you love to do what you do. You realize you’re not dreaming and it’s actually happening.”