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U-Hi gymnast gets a lift from laughing

Junior Stacie Davis works out with her U-Hi gymnastic teammates Tuesday. She won the first all-around competition of the young gymnastic season and is also an honor roll student. (J. Bart Rayniak)
Junior Stacie Davis works out with her U-Hi gymnastic teammates Tuesday. She won the first all-around competition of the young gymnastic season and is also an honor roll student. (J. Bart Rayniak)

Davis successfully channels intensity into competitions

Stacie Davis already is a big-time gymnast.

The University High School junior was one of the best all-around competitors in the Greater Spokane League a year ago and placed second in the Eastern Regional meet, earning a trip to the state Class 4A meet.

Clearly, she knows how to get ready for an intense competition. But she could use a little help once in a while. So if you see her beforehand, do her a favor: tell her a joke, make a silly face or anything else that tickles her funny bone. It all helps.

“I like to laugh before a competition,” Davis giggled. “When I compete, my intensity is so high and my concentration is so intense that I really don’t want that before I go out there to compete. I want to laugh, I want to take my mind off of the competition.”

It works, although occasionally the laughs just aren’t there.

Take the state meet, for example.

“At state last year Stacie was so sick, but she still went out there and competed,” U-Hi coach Tracy Duncan said. “She had a 103 temperature, but she went out there and gave it her all and finished 14th.”

“I was so sick that I couldn’t go shopping with the other girls,” Davis laughed. “That must have been pretty sick. Luckily my mom came and brought me Gatorade and saltine crackers. That was all I was able to eat.

“I feel good that, even though I was so sick, I still had a pretty good meet. It makes me feel confident that, if I can get back and compete healthy that I can do even better.”

Davis wasn’t laughing during Monday’s non-counting meet with Mt. Spokane, Mead and Lakeside at Shadle Park.

For starters, the floor exercise was staged on a wrestling mat – for gymnasts that’s like holding a tackle football game on asphalt. More than that, freshman teammate Katelyn Nemitz was lost for the season after breaking her femur.

“That was awful – as soon as they called for an ambulance I was like, ‘Is it here yet? It should be here. Why isn’t it here?’ I was devastated for her,” Davis said. “I had to step out because I started to cry. She was great, though; she was laughing about it while she waited for the ambulance.”

The injury was unnerving for the whole team.

“This has been such a freaky year for injuries,” Duncan said. “She wasn’t doing anything. She was stretching and doing her run-up for the vault. She thought she’d just pulled a groin muscle, which would be bad enough. But she pulled the top right off of her femur. The muscles held, the ligaments held. The bone broke. I’ve never heard of that.

“She’s out for the year. She was probably going to be No. 3 or No. 4 on our varsity, and she’s done for the season, and that’s just too bad.”

In the team’s first meet, a non-counting meet at U-Hi with Central Valley, Mt. Spokane, North Central and Rogers, Nemitz was one of just four Titans to compete in all four events, scoring 29.175 points in all-around competition.

Duncan isn’t laughing about the way Davis has improved this season, either.

“Stacie is really taking advantage of her natural abilities,” she said. “(Assistant coach) Karen (Renner) or I will suggest something to her and she’ll go out and just do it, first time. I’ve seen athletes who are able to do that naturally. I’ve never before had one who developed that ability the way Stacie has. It’s amazing.

“I think the difference is that she’s just so very confident in her own body and her own abilities. She trusts herself.”

Normally, Duncan said, the coaching staff expects gives gymnasts a goal of perfecting a new move over the course of the season. For Davis to execute new suggestions so quickly isn’t just unusual – it’s almost unheard of.

“We’re trying not to give her too much for fear of her coming to a point where it’s all going to come crashing down,” she said.

Still, the results are impressive.

“I’ve finally put together the floor routine I’ve always dreamed about,” Davis said. “It’s new and it’s not something you’ve seen before. I’ve got new music and it’s rock. It’s up-tempo and I’m excited about it.

“I talked to my coaches about what I wanted to do and they weren’t exactly sure if it would work, but Tracy told me to go choreograph it and show her and I did.”

“It works,” Duncan said. “Her old routine (music) was more poppy. It was a good routine, but I’m excited for her.”

Davis scored 9.175 points in her floor exercise debut in the team’s first meet. For the second meet, the coaches pulled most of the high-impact elements off all routines rather than risk injury on a wrestling mat.

Now the team will be without a meet until the new year.

“Now we can go back and work on the things that didn’t quite work the first time,” Davis said. “This is where we put in the hard work to make ourselves better. I like this time of year. We get a few days off for the holidays, then it’s back to work getting ready for the league season.”

What drives Davis is the thought of having company at this year’s state meet in the Tacoma Dome.

“State was fun last year, but I really wanted to share that with all of my teammates,” she said. “Instead it was just three of us.

“When I was a freshman, we went to state as a team and it was so much better. I want that for this team. I want all my teammates to get that chance.”