Bear River grad Gregory competes for national title

By: Mark Moschetti Special to the Journal
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As day faded into night on Thursday in Connecticut, Texie Gregory walked over to the chalk box. She scooped some out of it … dusted her hands … stepped back and stared at the uneven parallel bars in front of her… then jumped into action. She was the last performer on the last event for Seattle Pacific at the USA Gymnastics national collegiate championships. And it’s the last place the Falcons senior from Auburn and Bear River High ever thought she would be. “I came in here not being able to do a bars routine whatsoever,” said Gregory, who arrived on campus in the fall of 2008 figuring she would give SPU a boost on the vault and floor exercise. “The minute I got here, they told me, ‘You’re doing bars and beam.’ “It was kind of a shock — it really was,” Gregory said. “But I worked with Laurel (head coach Tindall) and Kathy (assistant coach Siwek), and they managed to make a bars specialist out of me.” Gregory was a key member of the multi-talented squad that is trying to get Seattle Pacific into the national team finals for the second year in a row. Thursday was the first phase at Hubbell Gymnasium on the University of Bridgeport campus. If the Falcons finish first or second in their four-team session that includes defending champion Bridgeport, third-seeded Pennsylvania, and seventh-seeded Temple (SPU is the No. 5 seed), they will indeed get to compete for the national title on Friday night. “It was very nice not to be on the (qualifying) bubble this year,” Gregory said. “Coming off of last year when we went in eighth and were a complete underdog (SPU wound up making the team finals and finishing fourth), I really believe we can do it again. Laurel has done the math, and if we hit really well, we should finish above Penn.” By the time Gregory mounts the uneven bars, the Falcons likely will know what their chances are of getting into those team finals. If it comes down to her, she’s fine with that. “Last year, I was a leadoff. Now, I’m competing anchor, which is a huge honor,” Gregory said. (Gymnastics coaches typically arrange their athletes in reverse order, with the best competitor on each event going last.) “Laurel told me about that at the first meet, and I was like, ‘What?’ But after I hit my first routine, it was like, ‘OK, Laurel, whatever you say.’” From Tindall’s point of view, earning that coveted anchor position was the culmination of a steady, gradual process. “She came in as a Level 9 (Level 10 is the top rung on the club gymnastics ladder), and she had good basics and good body lines,” Tindall said. “I knew she wouldn’t do too much that first year, but that she would improve. She swings well and she’s going to be very clean – bars seems to be the event that worked with her body well.” Gregory’s work ethic also made an impression on her coach. “She’s parked outside my door waiting for the gym to open,” Tindall said. “She’ll come in early and do her conditioning, or will come over and do her studying. She works hard in the gym and in the classroom.” NEW SURROUNDINGS? NO PROBLEM For the Falcons, walking into Hubbell will be walking into a strange gym, because they’ve never been there. For Texie Gregory, walking into a strange gym won’t seem strange at all. She has been doing that for a good part of her life, thanks to her father’s career as a chaplain in the United States Air Force that has taken the family to numerous locales. Matter of fact, just during the time she has been at Seattle Pacific, Gregory has trained in a different gym each of the past three summers – Reno in 2009, San Jose in 2010, and Raleigh, N.C., in 2011. “Every summer, it has been like, ‘I don’t know these coaches, and I don’t know these girls,’” Gregory said. “But I’ve enjoyed it. I like being able to see different perspectives. I have friends that I’m in contact with in all of those different places.” Gregory, who turns 22 on Thursday, has been in a gym most of her life. But she didn’t actually start gymnastics until age 11, a relative late-comer to the sport. She was doing acrobatics, even competing on a national level. Then, her family had to move, and there were no acrobatic programs nearby. “My parents asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’” Gregory recalled. “I said, ‘Hockey.’ They said no. I said, ‘Football.’ They said no. “I was 10 – I was being rebellious,” she said with a laugh. “They told me, ‘We’ll put you in gymnastics until we find an acro program.’” So Gregory went to gymnastics. But even then, she avoided the bars whenever possible. “Bars was such a struggle – I never even touched them,” she said. “Then I won my first meet (as an all-arounder), and I was hooked.” Gregory will be on the move again this summer. This time, however, it won’t be to a gym. Instead, after graduating in June, the 3.57 student will be off to China from late August until early December to complete the final part of her international business degree. Students from several different colleges will take two weeks traveling through Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, then spend their remaining time at Sichuan University in Chengdu, located in southwestern China. “I’m so excited to go to China.” Gregory said. “With gymnastics over, a lot of people will be sad. But I’ll be on the Great Wall, and that will be exciting.” HOPEFUL OF A HIGH-FLYING FINISH Gymnastics isn’t over yet. Gregory, who posted a best-ever 9.825 bars score on Senior Night, Feb. 24 against UC Davis in Brougham, is seeking to wrap up her career in as grand a manner as possible in Bridgeport. “It’s the same routine I did last year, but with a little more difficulty added,” she said. “I’ve learned probably a dozen competitive skills on bars since I’ve been here. If I include skills from other events – an entirely new floor routine, and a few on beam – the coaches have taught me so much.” Gregory will do lots of waiting before she actually gets to compete on Friday. But she won’t be sitting around all that time. “The trick is just to stay engaged with what the team is doing. All of us have little jobs to do, like moving the mats,” she said. “It’s nice that vault is right before the bars, because my job is to move the board.” Then, it will be her turn. Her time. The last performer on the last event. “When I go do that routine, whatever the person did before me does not affect what I’m doing right now,” Gregory said. “As much as this is a team sport, each individual does her own thing.” And she does the uneven bars thing better than most. Pretty impressive feat… considering it’s the last place Texie Gregory ever thought she would be.