Bama, Danusia, and Sam OH MY!

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Bama, Danusia, and Sam OH MY! Katie tells you what you didn't see during the UCLA/Bama meet.

Hey y'all! Here's this lovely important disclaimer that you should read: 1. Brace yourself for lots and lots of Sam Peszek fangirling, and 2. These views and opinions are mine and mine alone and are not representative of Arabian Punch Front.



Being a student at the University of Alabama has its perks, one of which is cheap football tickets. The other is having a beast gymnastics team. The thing about gymnastics though, is that maybe 5 people on campus are knowledgeable about the sport.

I usually go to the meets with my friends and sit up in the nosebleeds for meets, but I figured UCLA coming to town warranted a little intensity. I found out a fellow gymternet tumblr user also goes to Bama (and we lived in the same dorm last year – freaky!) so we decided to meet up and go together. This was perfect because I was able to go with someone who was fine with me being a crazy fan taking signs and knew lots and lots about gymnastics.

As soon as we met up, I knew the meet was going to be awesome because I was not murdered by an internet stranger. I take my victories where I can get them.

The meet wasn't scheduled to start until 7:30, but we got to Coleman at 4:30. Yes, you read that right, we got there 3 hours early. They don't let you inside until 5:30, which in Alabama normally wouldn't be a problem. Not today though. Not with my luck. Since I wasn't wearing a jacket of any kind, Tuscaloosa decided it wanted to be freezing cold. I was not about to wait an hour and catch frostbite, so I made sad faces at the old ladies working the scanners until they came and let us in.

The first 150 students admitted to the meet get to sit on the floor. And when I say sit on the floor, I mean I was about six feet from the OOB line of FX. I was kind of freaking out a little bit (okay, a lot) because UCLA's team was RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF MY FACE. Yes, I was more excited about seeing UCLA's gymnasts than my own school's. Olympians and tons of former elites vs level 10s? Sorry Bama. I love you, but that's just the way it is.

The Bruins warmup pants were jazz pants, while Bama wore Nike leggings. UCLA had on navy sparkly warmup leos; Bama's were crimson with white curls. Everyone jogged around and stretched, then did cartwheels and tumbling. Honestly I don't remember much else about warmup, because I was on Sam watch. Priorities, guys.

Ashley Priess sprinted over to Sam and gave her a HUGE hug. They talked for a while, and it was really cute. Danusia Francis and Sam had on these baby blue leg warmers that were adorable. The reason I know Sam had them on is because at one point she took off her boot and did relev├ęs. The achilles looked fine during this, so I'm hoping that she'll be good to go soon!





UCLA came to warm up on floor, and Miss Val was standing right in front of me. My friend from the internet who still had not murdered me, thankfully, starts pointing and flailing. I, having no shame whatsoever, yell “Miss Val! Miss Val!” at the top of my lungs. She turns around and waves, and for a split second her regal facade is betrayed by an expression of happiness and shock that someone recognized her. Whenever I have a bad day, I will remind myself that I once made Miss Val giddy. I asked for a picture, and she was happy to oblige. She kind of scratched my back while asking my name when we were posing for the picture, and I honestly have no idea how I managed to avoid fainting.

I told her that I, too, am a dancer and that I think it's awesome that she has broken into gymnastics like she has. I also told her that I LOVE her choreography, and that everyone else's sucks in comparison. She told me she loves her job (UCLA fans fear not, she's gonna be there til they oust her it seems) and that it is really cool for her to see them do all this amazing tumbling. “How do they do that?!” I don't know, Miss Val. I don't know.



Let me just say that Miss Val really does have this regal and sophisticated aura and presence about her, but she's as sweet as can be. I can't say enough good things about her!

I told her that Danusia's was my favorite floor routine, and that I was excited to see it in person. Miss Val then throws her arm up beside her head, in an attempt to mimic the opening pose. “That one?” she asked. “Yep it's pretty much beast.” “Yeah, Danusia's great.” Yes, yes she is.

She also said that each of her floor routines has a story behind it. One of them is the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I think it's Dana McDonald's routine, but I'm not positive. We didn't want to take any more of her time, so we thanked her again and walked the two steps back to our seats.

It was at this point that Danusia was in the corner of the floor waiting to tumble, and I yelled “Werk Danusia,” at her. She turned around and fist pumped at me. I'm pretty sure everyone in the student section thought I was crazy, but who cares. It's Danusia Francis, y'all!

A few passes later, Danusia landed something short. I want to say it was a double back? Anyways Miss Val looked even scarier than normal when she saw it. If looks could kill... Anyways, much to my dismay Danusia didn't compete on floor. She tweeted me later and said that she hurt her feet in warmup, which is why she didn't compete FX. Boo hiss.


Credit: Sarah DeMeo via instagram


MEET TIME! When UCLA's gymnasts were introduced individually, I wanted to yell for all of them, but I also didn't want to get shot. Thus, I cheered for Vanessa Zamarripa and Danusia Francis when they were introduced. Danusia was second to last and Kaelie Baer was last. I yelled for Danusia, and the two of them looked over and laughed. When Kaelie was announced and I didn't yell for her, she looked over at our section and laughed. Then someone on the other side of the coliseum yelled for her, and she turned and pointed at them in appreciation. And that's the story of how Kaelie Baer won me over.

As far as routines go, Kim Jacob's floor brought down the house, and people thought Olivia Courtney's routine was cool. I thought UCLA was overscored on vault; they didn't get much height, which was especially apparent following the likes of Diandra Milliner. Danusia's beam looked wonderful from where I was sitting, and I think she was underscored. That could just be the fangirl in me, though. She definitely captivated the audience, which is quite the feat for beam!

“Home” was the beam music for an Alabama gymnast, and Miss Val was standing over by FX swaying and snapping to it. “Ho Hey” was beam music too, and Sam was interpretive dancing. It was great.

FINALLY Sam came on my side of FX to where I could yell at her. I had been praying to the gym gods that she would come over to me at some point – glad to know they were listening. Again, since I have no shame, I yelled her name, and she turned around. I pointed to my shirt and told her that I wore blue since she told me to. (She responded to a tweet of mine, telling me to come to the meet and wear blue.) “Oh, that was you?!” YES, YES IT WAS. “Well, come here!” She put up her hand for a high five, and I stepped out of my seat to give her one.



You know how in Mean Girls being punched in the face by Regina George is awesome? Well Sam Peszek gives PAINFULLY HARD high fives, but it's awesome. That's an understatement, actually. My non-murdering internet friend asked if she would mind taking pictures after the meet. “Of course,” came the super gracious reply, because SAM IS THE BEST.

Alabama closed the meet on floor, while UCLA was on beam. All of Bama's team stood right in front of me. This means that when Mattie Larson was up on beam and I held up my sign that said “Splattie,” all of the Bama gymnasts could easily read it if they turned around.

Which they did. Ashley Priess and Marissa Gutierrez asked me what it said and meant. I pointed to Mattie, who was up on beam at the time, and told them that it said Splattie because she falls all the time. Now don't get me wrong, I love both Mattie Larson and her gymnastics, but when you compete against my school, I put that love aside and root against you. Well, Ashley starts laughing like it is the funniest thing she's ever seen. Marissa, on the other hand is not amused and looks at me with this disgusted look on her face. “Can we, like, not?...Like can you put that down? Yeah, no.” So I turned it around. During this, Ashley is still laughing hysterically, and this is why I will forever love Ashley Priess.

Mattie then got a 9.9 on beam. And Sadiqua Bynum hit floor. And Shayla Worley hit all of her routines. It's all on Marissa Gutierrez, y'all.

The meet ended, and Sam and Ashley talked again. Yay for National and Worlds team friendship! Sam began to walk away to the locker room, but I yelled and got her attention. She came over and took a picture really quickly, and I honestly could have died happy at this point. We thanked her, and she told us she'd see us later. IF ONLY. I think proceeded to die internally for about the fifth time that night, but the gym gods had more in store for me, because Danusia started walking towards us. I yelled at her, of course, and if you didn't see that coming, then you haven't been reading very closely.



As she was walking over, I told her that I had several people ask me to ask her what hair products she uses. The answer is John Frieda, everyone. She then asked if I was the one yelling for her, I told her I was, and she thanked me. I said that I wanted to cheer for the whole team, but I was afraid for my life. She laughed and thanked me agan. I could listen to her talk all day – her voice is like velvet and her accent is divine! We took a picture before she scurried off to the locker room, and I went home unable to wipe a smile off my face because the whole night was, as Aly Raisman would say, amazing.



Written by @keparoo
All pictures are property of Katie P unless otherwise stated.
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