November 19, 2003

Vaulting Back to Health

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During the course of the 2003 season, junior Shellen Goltz traversed a wide range of emotions, as she went from arguably the lowest point of her career to one of its highest points — all in a mere four months. After injuring her foot on the balance beam during warm-ups at the first meet, Goltz was in for a wild ride that turned a disappointing season into an unexpected success.

“It was very frustrating the entire year,” said Goltz. “More as the season progressed, because nobody knew what was wrong with it.”

The injury was a major setback for Goltz and the Red after a freshman year that saw Goltz break the school record in the all-around with a 38.200. She later passed the 38.000-point barrier again that season, a feat made more impressive by the fact that it had only been achieved twice previously in Cornell annals.

“We figured it was just sprained and bruised,” said Goltz. “When it didn’t get any better and I still couldn’t do everything that I wanted to do, I got a little frustrated with it.”

A bone scan revealed a fracture in one of the small bones of the foot.

Playing through injury is just one aspect of Goltz’s character that makes her admirable to the team. Her performance outside of school matches her performance in the gym, as evidenced by her induction into the Red Key Honor Society, which honors undergraduates who are outstanding contributors to Cornell athletics, academics, and the community. She is also a member of Cornell’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC).

“Shellen has been a quiet leader on the team,” said junior Allison Betof. “She’s in here everyday, working hard and pushing herself. That pushes us, just by seeing her constantly plugging away and constantly working to improve.

“Obviously it’s come through in her gymnastics success and academic success.”

Goltz’s hard work paid off near the end of last season, when she was able to compete in vault and beam again. She triumphantly capped an eventful season by tying for fifth at the USAG Collegiate National Championship in the beam competition, earning All-America honors in the process.

“It felt great,” said Goltz. “I wasn’t expecting it. I just wanted to hit my routines to get a good score for the team.”

Even with her performance at nationals, Goltz’s struggles with her foot were not over. Over the summer, her foot did not recover as fast as expected and she developed Achilles’ tendonitis. “We’re going hard days followed by easy days,” said head coach Paul Beckwith. “We’re trying to keep it at a level where it doesn’t hurt her foot. And hopefully by January, she’ll be ready for floor.”

Looking forward to the upcoming season, it is hard to not realize why Goltz’s smile is almost as big as her 5-0 frame.

“I have a new bar routine that I would like to compete, and I have a new vault that I would like to compete,” said Goltz. “I would like to compete all-around again and hopefully break the school record that I set my freshman year in all-around.”

The Red is looking for a big season with Goltz leading a strong, healthy squad. Her dedication and commitment to the team go beyond her performance in meets, however, and the coaching staff is quick to make note of it.

“She’s meant a lot to me,” said Beckwith. “She is a fabulous person, regardless of what type of gymnast she is.”

Archived article by Dan Carroll