The build-up wasn’t as much excruciating as it was mind-blowing for Champlin Park ninth-grader Taylor Guckeen.
Making her first state gymnastics appearance, Guckeen had arrived to at the University of Minnesota’s Sports Pavilion Feb. 22 with the hopes of gaining some knowledge of what was to come by just being a spectator.
As she sat and watched the team portion of the Class AA event, her eye’s could only grow a the wonderment of what the experience would actually feel like 24 hours later.
“It was cool to see what I was going up against, but also to get a feel for the energy in this place,” Guckeen said. “There is more people here than any meet I’ve ever been in, and the competition is really, really good.”
That fact was evident to Guckeen a week prior, when she watched Roseville dominate the Section 5AA competition. Friday, with Guckeen watching from above, the Raiders won their sixth state championship in the past eight years.
Saturday, when the Section 5AA competitors entered their fourth rotation in the individual portion of the meet, Guckeen joined them in the balance beam routine.
She had advanced to state after turning in a 9.4 to qualify out of Section 5 a week prior. She then turned that week leading up to the meet into what she said might have been the best week of practice she ever had.
“It was,” said Champlin Park head gymnastics coach Jon Wynia. “She did 30 routines in practice this week and hit on 29 of them. She was in a zone, and all we wanted her to do here was to stay in that zone. She owns the routine, and she just needed to go out and show everybody that.”
In the most pressure-packed 90 seconds of her still young gymnastics career, Guckeen put on a show.
She didn’t match the score she posted in sections, but the 9.175 she had in her first state meet appearance did place her 12th out of the 32 individual qualifiers on the apparatus,
“It was a little wobbly,” she said, “but I got through it. I just wanted to mostly stay on [the beam]. I didn’t want to fall.”
As most of the state’s best gymnasts showed throughout the night, that is much easier said than done.
But then again, most of those girls don’t have the background that Guckeen enjoys.
Her mother and part-time coach Raquel Guckeen was a three-time state meet entrant for Park Center High School in the 1980’s, and has spent a lot of her time since then coaching at the high school level.
Raquel Guckeen was everywhere with her daughter Saturday, including on the floor next to her before and after her beam performance.
“I think it is just really great for her to get this opportunity,” said Raquel. “She’s worked really hard for this, and I’m really proud of her.”
Taylor noted the irony in that the balance beam was also her mother’s best event. She also said – like many before her, including her mom – that it was important not to take this moment for granted.
Sure, she is a ninth-grader with three more years of high school gymnastics in front of her. But in a sport where injuries often play a prominent role in everything involved, there are no promises.
“You never know,” said Taylor. “It is cool to think that I could come here in the future, but it is also cool to say that I’ve been here, no matter what happens. I know how hard it is. Hopefully I stay healthy enough to get a chance to come back, because this place is awesome.”
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]