Kristen "Riffy" Riffanacht is having a great preseason.
Dec. 16, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY -
We have our last practice today before everyone leaves tomorrow for Christmas break. I know we are all looking forward to this time to reconnect with family and clear our heads before the madness (fun) begins. So, mom and dad get ready, here they come with all their dirty laundry, empty pockets, and a need for the car throughout their stay. Did I mention empty pockets? Hide those credit cards!
It has been an eventful week. We finished finals on Friday. I think everyone felt pretty good about how they did but they were mentally burned out. Saturday we had about 10 judges show up to observe our training. OUCH! That was a BIG dose of reality. No Christmas spirit of giving with this group. They really let us have it, which was probably a good thing. I think it will help us refocus, and we will pay more attention to the little things as we prepare for our first meet.
Sunday, we had our Christmas party. We had dinner together and shared funny stories about things that had happened throughout the semester. The highlight is always our Secret Santa gift exchange. After Thanksgiving we draw names and then leave little things for each other. Everyone tries to figure out who their Secret Santa is, and then at the party, we find out just how sneaky some people really are. I may have some budding CIA agents on the team.
Now, for my update on our sophomore class:
Dominique D'Oliveira: Dom has had a much better pre-season this year. She's healthy! This is a very determined young woman, and I am consistently impressed with her maturity and independence. I guess one must have those qualities to travel half way around the world to train and go to school. She has one of my favorite new floor routines to the music from "Pulp Fiction". I promise it's a "G" rated routine. She's also doing a new double layout dismount on bars and has upgraded her beam routine. Her vault right now is a strong front pike, but we hope to twist it as the season progresses. After a frustrating (due to injuries) freshman year, I believe Dom will have a breakout season as she continues to gain experience and confidence. Of course, it will help if she can make it back from her trip home this year without any broken bones (she went home for Christmas last year and broke her foot).
Natalie Nicoloff: I must admit that I was a little frustrated with the way Nat came back from her summer break. She had progressed so far last year but just didn't seem to be able to maintain that over the summer. That, coupled with an early injury (sprained wrist), made this a somewhat frustrating pre-season. However, Nat is very resilient and has really put it back together in the course of this past month. All events have improved remarkably in the last few weeks and she's quickly working her way back out of my "dog house". By the way, "dog house" may be a good thing at Georgia but not at Utah. To know Nat is to love Nat! She has a bubbly personality that really helps to keep things upbeat. Nat can always makes me laugh, even when things are tough, and that's a good thing. Now that she's healthy and back on track, I expect her to re-establish herself as one of our most dependable performers.
Gabriella Onodi: It's been a roller coaster ride here for Gabi. Last year she came in with a bad back that didn't allow her to compete. This year she was having a very productive pre-season until she strained a tendon in her foot. Her progress has been slowed dramatically, especially on floor and vault, for almost a month now. This has definitely been a blow to our depth. I just hope we can get and keep her healthy after the break. She could be a factor for us, especially on beam and floor. Her bar routine is packed with difficulty, and she could also help us here if she can continue to improve her execution and eliminate those pesky little deductions.
Kristen Riffanacht: Riffy is a warrior! She is one of our hardest workers and is always positive in her approach. She is also one of our most powerful performers and really loves to sell her routines. Like almost everyone, her floor is new and improved this year, and she expects to upgrade her first pass to a whip punch double back. She worked hard over the summer and has added a bail to handstand to her bar routine and improved exponentially on balance beam. She continues to do a great front pike with a half on vault but is also training a round-off flick-flack on, layout full. Riff is quickly emerging as one of our next great team leaders.
Now, next week should be really fun. I get to talk about our freshmen.
Until then.........GO UTES!