April 6, 2011

Athlete Diary: Kerri Lavallee

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After returning from our first-ever ECAC championship win in school history, motivation has been high at practice. We managed to beat out all the other Ivy schools and nearly undefeated Towson, among others. Along with our team success, five individuals won ECAC titles and we sent our first event specialist ever to NCAA Regionals. But the show goes on. We are still in the gym training hard every day for our national competition in Colorado Springs in just a couple days. So what keeps us going strong in the gym? With a group of 20 girls together every day from the start of school in August until the middle of April, we have no choice but to be a close team. Our team dynamic is what makes us strong. We all have similar schedules and similar lifestyles that make every day ritualized, but awesome … So what do I do every day Monday through Friday? The same thing ever other Cornell student does. Try to take over the world. (Pinky and the Brain anyone?) Except take away the hours of 2:30-7 p.m. and add a limp and crack to your strut. As soon as I wake up I can know exactly what my practice will be like that day. When my feet hit the hard wood floor, I know how much my body will be able to handle at practice, and if I will have to ice bath/warm whirlpool/live in the athletic training room that day. Being an athlete is a full-time job when you are in-season. You feel the physical and mental effects of your practice before, during, and after its completion.As a second semester senior I only have class Tuesday and Thursday. Living the dream. But you can still find me in the library. Why? A) Because I have to be on campus for practice anyway, so I might as well make the trek. B) So I can get work done to give me more time at night to go hang out with my favorite group of boys at the Ocho (shout out!) and play Settlers of Catan (The best board game ever, and a favorite amongst our team’s seniors). Life on campus is pretty average. I go to the library or class and eat lunch somewhere in between. Nothing too interesting going on, unless you are senior Danielle Scott who takes full advantage of what Olin has to offer. Now for the shift from the average student to the athlete: this all happens at about 2:30 p.m. The “athlete” portion of my day consists of four entities — lifting, training room, practice and post-practice.Lifting: Twice a week we throw our fashionable “teagles” on and we drag ourselves to do assigned lifts up at Friedman. For the most part, our team fears Friedman and “the wall”. Every year we do strength testing as a team, and the Top-3 get their name onto the wall. Although it is honorable to be among the strongest of “Big Red speed and explosive power” athletes at Cornell, our portion of the wall is cursed … for sure. Everyone who has made it onto the wall has had a major injury while her name was on the wall. I was a victim of the wall and I busted up my hand and my knee. Finally after five years of this curse, we have been voluntarily removed from the wall, but sadly enough we still have to drift lift.Training room: As a senior, I have spent many of my days over at the Schoellkopf training room. Many of the ladies on our team have to go to get treated daily for nagging injuries. Our trainer Jocelyn, who is the hottest cougar you will ever meet, does a fine job at making sure we survive each day. The freshmen, or as they like to call themselves “The Six Pack,” go over to the training room for some eye candy. Yes, they do need to heat/ice, but we have both these necessities in our gym. They love a good chance at an encounter with their fellow injured male athletes. Practice: The heart and soul of our day. It all starts in our locker room. This pre-practice time gives us a chance to unwind from class and get ready for business. It is also a time to harass the freshmen about their new boyfriends. (Hi George. You break her heart, we will break your leg.) Our lockers also serve as a nice place to display pictures of certain male athletes off the back page of The Daily Sun. Specifically ones that certain members of the gymnastics team have had encounters with. … Encounters that we want them to remember — over and over again.Every day at around 3:30 p.m., you can spot us marching through the halls of Teagle in our brightly colored spandex leotards. The only thing that sets us apart from the rowers and swimmers are the sparkles and gems … and a three-foot height difference. If you turned the lights off in Teagle at any given moment, you would still be able to spot each and every one of us because our leotards are so awesome. Once we enter the gym, we work hard. We use these three hours during the peak of our season to maintain what we know and perfect everything we do. Gymnastics is all about muscle memory. If you don’t do a skill for a few days, it gets difficult, rusty and ugly. At this point in our season, we aren’t learning new skills, we are making sure that we can do everything perfect, and that our bodies are strong enough and healthy enough to reach our high expectations.  It may look like a circus with 20 girls on four different events throwing their bodies around in mind-boggling ways, but it’s a controlled chaos that we have learned to love since a young age. After practice and conditioning come our post-practice rituals. One of these is the typical ice bath. We head over to Schoellkopf for a second round of treatment and plunge into a 50-55 degree bath of ice. It’s as unpleasant as it sounds. The alternative to the ice bath are bags of ice wrapped around various joints of the body making it extremely difficult to walk home. A third post-practice option is bitching and moaning about how bad your body hurts.And then our day returns to the average Cornell student life after 7:00 pm (minus karaoke, taco Tuesday, fishbowls, group therapy and all the other weekly events of C-Town that we do not attend because of our dry rules). As we are about to end our season with an exciting trip to Colorado to take on seven other teams for chance at a second national title, I am also looking forward to life after gymnastics. Since gymnastics is a full year sport, we literally have trained all year round without more than a week’s break at a time since we were six or seven years old. Our return from Nationals will be the first time us seniors (or the BCE, Best Class Ever, as we have deemed ourselves) will be on “off-season”… ever. What’s in store? I’m taking my talents to my intramural softball team, The NARPs.

Original Author: Kerri Lavallee