Sports

CK’s Hall vaulting across the country

At an age when most teenagers her age are driving their cars to jobs or headed to the mall after school, Amanda Hall’s packing her gymnastics gear for her daily commute to Tacoma.

Hall, after spending the first eight years of her career with the Kitsap-based Olympic Gymnastics Center, has been training the last year-and-a-half with the Grace Gymnastics Center team at the Lakewood YMCA.

At the end of this season, it’ll be time for the 18-year-old Hall to move on once again.

This time, she’ll be moving to the other side of the country.

Hall, a Central Kitsap senior, signed a national letter of intent earlier this week to attend school and compete in gymnastics for the University of New Hampshire.

Hall visited New Hampshire and Missouri. Pittsburgh also offered a scholarship.

“I really liked it,” Hall said of her trip to Durham, N.H., a college town near Portsmouth. “I liked the area. It reminds of what it’s like here. It was really pretty.”

New Hampshire’s no stranger to NCAA competition, having competed in 20 straight regional meets under veteran coach Gail Goodspeed. The Wildcats compete in the Eastern Athletic Gymnastics League.

“They’ve got a really strong team,” Hall said, “and they seemed really close.”

That’s important to Hall, who has thrived in a team setting since making the move from the OGC to Grace Gymnastics.

“It was hard to move. I’d been with OGC so long,” Hall said. “The coaches (Greg Mutchler, Kim Pettigrew) were great, but it was just something I needed to do.

“I really like the type of atmosphere where you’ve got a lot of teammates.”

Hall found it easier to reach her full potential at Grace, where she was one of six Level 10s on a team that had about 50 total gymnasts.

“That was the biggest change for her,” said Grace coach Brian Muenz, “just to come to a club where there were more kids at her level. Greg and Kim did a good job of getting her to where she is today. This is just a change that was good for her.”

Hall placed third in the vault, her favorite event, at the Level 10 nationals two years ago and was sixth in that event a year ago. She was 19th in the all-around at nationals last year.

“She has a lot of talent, but she still has room for improvement,” Muenz said. “She’s cleaned up a lot of things.”

Muenz thinks Hall has the ability to place in the top 10 in all-around, and top five in vault and floor exercise at nationals.

For Hall, it’s a satisfying time, knowing the long hours and dedication have paid off in a college scholarship. Hall practices three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half hours a day, this after making a 45-minute drive across the Narrows Bridge.

Hall, who carries a 3.84 GPA at CK, knows how to manage her time.

“You find out how to eat lunch and study at the same time,” she said. “I try to get everything done at school, so when I get home after practice I can get some rest.”

There was a time when she tired of the rigorous training and long hours.

“I felt pretty burned out when I was a ninth-grader,” she said. “I went through about a year where I wondered if it was worth it. But I’ve switched priorities. Especially now that I’m at Grace, it’s so much more fun. Everything’s worth it. It’s hard work, but it’s what you love at the same time.”

Now, she doesn’t have any regrets about devoting so much of her young life to gymnastics.

“With every sport, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’re going to miss some things like dances and social events,” she said. “You still fit some of it in. But you have friends at the gym. Those friendships that you develop are important because those girls are always there for you to hang out with.”

Muenz calls Hall “a role model,” for his younger girls at Grace.

“She’s so supportive of the other girls on the team,” Muenz said. “She just works so hard, and does it in a way where she enjoys it all the time.”

Hall, with help from a choreographer and her coach, is currently fine-tuning for the coming season. At this level — there’s only 30-40 Level 10s in the state — the gymnast has to feel comfortable with her music and routines.

“You have to do what works for you, otherwise you won’t be confident,” Hall said. “Confidence is a big thing in gymnastics. You don’t want to be afraid of what you do when you’re standing up on something that’s four-inches wide. That’s not good.”

Fear, said Hall, is definitely a factor.

“Especially as you get older. You’re more afraid to try new things,” she said. “You don’t have that extra go-for-it attitude like you did when you were little. You kind of work your way into it slower.”

Hall was a little apprehensive about picking a college so far away from home. Her close friend, Olympic High grad and former OGC and Grace teammate Jacynda Wnek, is a freshman gymnast at the University of Washington.

“The insecurity of leaving home kind of hit me,” she said, “but when I was little I always thought I’d go out of state. I wanted to go see something new and get away from the rain.”

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