There were still two athletes in line ahead of Kacey Frederickson on the uneven bars at last Friday’s district competition when she went into a corner of the North Central gym for her usual quiet moment.
There, the Ferris High School gymnast stretched and calmed herself. For a few precious seconds, her eyes were closed - pictures of her upcoming routine flashing through her brain. Ever since a horrible fall from the bars during a meet at Central Valley three weeks ago, frightening images have crept into Frederickson’s pre-event vision.
She walked away from that tumble with her body intact, but in this very mental sport, however, it is often the cracks behind the facade of a gymnast’s calm face that make the difference between a perfect or flawed performance. “The scariest thing for me was to get up on the bars next week and do that same move,” Frederickson said the week before districts. “Even now, I have to make sure there’s lots of chalk on the bars.”
There must have been plenty of chalk Friday. Judges awarded her a solid 8.5, good enough for a sixth-place tie. Frederickson also finished first in the floor routine at NC, despite a painful knee courtesy of her twisting Tsukahara vault, not the fall at CV.
Ferris wound up second in the team competition.
Now, Frederickson helps lead what may be the Greater Spokane League’s strongest gymnastics contingent ever into the regional meet Saturday at University High School.
“This year, I’ve done really well at being calm,” she says. “I never expected I was going to be able to compete with the girls from U-High.”
The girls from U-Hi are Kalie Cossette, Tara Hulbert and Coleen Pierce.
Bill Christianson, Frederickson’s coach at Ferris, admits nobody had expected her to beat all three in the all-around competition on the three occasions when Ferris and U-High met this season. With the exception of the meet at CV and districts, Frederickson has won every GSL all-around this year.
Prior to the season, Christianson and the 17-year-old junior sat down together to set goals. He asked Frederickson then who she thought would be the top gymnast in the league.
“Kacey said she thought she might even be fifth or sixth,” Christianson said.
What accounts for Frederickson’s sudden improvement, he said, is hard work in the off-season. For instance, as early as the end of last season Christianson had wanted the Saxon team members to incorporate some sort of twisting vault in their repertoires.
Frederickson went a step further. She’s now one of just four gymnasts in the GSL to attempt the Tsukahara in the vault - and one of only two to stick it regularly.
“Any expectations we had at the beginning of the season - she’s surpassed them,” Christianson said.
Frederickson started gymnastics when she was only 6 at Spokane Elite Gymnastics. By the time she reached seventh grade, the sport began to take over her life, she says.
She was no longer simply Kacey Frederickson, she says. She became Kacey Frederickson, gymnast.
In her psyche, the two became inextricably bound.
So she made a not-so-obvious choice: She quit and joined the drill team at Sacajewea Middle School. She rejoined gymnastics after she came to Ferris two years ago, but its meaning had changed. By then, she was Kacey Frederickson: honor student, water skier, churchgoer, and gymnast - in short, a more complete person.
“Gymnastics is a big part of my life, but it’s not the only part of my life,” she says in a way that belies her GSL ranking. “In high school gymnastics, there’s less pressure to be the best.”
A year ago, Frederickson returned to Spokane Elite - this time as a coach, not a competitor. She trains kids between 5 and 13 years old.
“She’s is really patient and kind and loving,” said Spokane Elite owner Nancy Ito. “You could teach a lot of people how to coach gymnastics, but that doesn’t mean they are going to be good with kids.”
Ito said Frederickson’s teaching role also may have improved her confidence when she competes.
Simply looking at the sport from a different perspective - that of a coach - enhances a gymnast’s ability to analyze her own performances, Ito said.
“I love coaching,” says Frederickson, who says she’s always thought it would be fun to eventually become a grade-school teacher.
For the time being, she’s content simply to concentrate on regionals on Saturday. Last year she qualified for state but did not place at the championship meet.
If she makes it again this year, Frederickson says she has no expectations beyond the simple dream of making it into the second day of competition. The top 10 gymnasts from the first day return for the second round, which decides individual state winners.
“I think that if I do well, I could do it,” she says. “Maybe not on all of the events, but you always want to go out there and do your best.”
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