"Never underestimate the heart of a champion." --Rudy Tomjanovich
"The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles." --Garth Stein
We'd only been home from Arizona for one week. The suitcase had scarcely been unpacked before it was time to load it back up for the Heart of a Champion Invitational in Pasadena, California.
Caleb didn't come along on this trip, but he too had a plane to catch. He flew to Tri-Cities to spend a couple of days with his cousins. I really can't think of any place in the world he'd rather be. Plus, his trip included a BYU basketball game in Portland where he got to witness Tyler Haws become BYU's all-time leading scorer and a Cougar win. He had the time of his life, I tell you.
We landed in Burbank on a Thursday evening and decided to make Hollywood our dinner stop. We found a California Pizza Kitchen and then wandered the area for a bit.
We ran into one of Alyssa's teammates on the Walk of Stars.
Natalie didn't compete until later in the evening the next day, so we spent our morning at Santa Monica Pier.
We rode a few rides and Jon set new high records on a couple Ms. Pac-Man machines. Oh and Natalie used her uncanny winning-stuffed-animals-at arcade-games ability to bring home two new friends.
Then it was time for Natalie to compete. The doctor cleared her to remove her splint just two days prior to our departure. She was able to compete vault and beam.
She did respectably and earned two new heart-shaped medals for her 11th place finish on both events.
We slept in the next morning and took it nice and easy while waiting for Alyssa's meet to start that evening. We ate lunch with teammates and Jon and I visited the Rose Bowl. Being the avid sports fans that we are, when we travel, we really enjoy seeing local sporting venues--especially those with a storied history like this one:
I was a bundle of nerves when it was finally time for Alyssa to compete. She was just coming off of a very disappointing competition in Arizona and had only had a few days of training before arriving at this meet. Our level nines and tens were scheduled to compete at the same time but on opposite sides of the facility. To make matters worse, the meet directors had also split our large level nine team into two different competing groups, one starting on bars while the other started on floor. This spread our coaches very thin and left the girls wondering if their usual event coaches would even be available when it was their turn to present their skills to the judges.
As if that wasn't enough, while our gymnasts were warming up for competition, our gym owner called all of the parents outside and explained that in the previous sessions, he'd felt there had been gross injustices in scoring. He'd filed a complaint with the meet referee and with the support of his staff who agreed with this sentiments, made it very clear that if things did not improve in this session, he was going to pull our girls out of the meet in protest.
I felt physically ill.
The girls, however, know just how to get down to business, no matter what obstacles are in their path. They were all smiles as they prepared for team introductions:
This girl keeps me sane:
It's either my love for her or my nerves that had me nearly squeezing her guts out. Or both.
Though this invitational's name refers to proceeds being donated to a foundation that services kids with heart disease, it seemed so fitting that it was here that Alyssa would come roaring back from her shortcomings in Arizona to prove that she indeed has the heart of a champion inside of her.
Her first event was bars. The very place she'd started and crashed in Arizona.
Not today! She hit her routine and scored a 9.225 and placed third.
Then it was on to beam. She nailed that too--9.45, third place.
After every event I worried that at any moment the coach would pull the girls. Alyssa was doing so well, I desperately wanted her to be able to finish.
She did a great floor routine--9.35, 2nd place.
She even placed on vault--8.875, 9th place.
She helped lead her team to a second place finish.
They presented her with the team trophy for her performance, as well as for determination to battle back from adversity.
Way to go, Lys!