There was never doubt Bishop Dwenger junior Katy Linvill was the area's best gymnast this year, earning her The News-Sentinel Gymnast of the Year honor, but her fifth-place all-around finish at the state meet two weeks ago was remarkable because of one thing.
Bet you didn't know some gymnasts practice so much that they wear out their equipment as much as they do their own bodies.
About halfway through the recently completed season, Linvill suffered a heel injury. Instead of competing on all four apparatus, for about three weeks she was limited to competing only on the uneven bars. That wasn't her favorite event, but her inability to land off a balance beam, a vault or a tumbling run on the floor exercise meant the bars became her new best friend.
Because she couldn't do anything else, Linvill practiced her bars routine sometimes as much as three hours a day. That almost became a major problem because the grips she wore on her hands were quickly wearing out.
Grips cost about $42 a pair. Usually, gymnasts will break in one pair to wear for the entire season, working until the grips mold to fit their hands.
Linvill had purchased a new pair for this season, but someone took one so she stuck with last year's models. That was OK until she went full time on the bars and the grips started to tear, sometimes leading to blisters.
``It kind of made my hands hurt, and I did want to get on the other stuff, but I couldn't do anything about it, so I accepted it,'' Linvill said. ``It was definitely a learning experience.''
Though her other teammates are very talented and helped the Saints finish third in the state team competition, Linvill was the only Bishop Dwenger gymnast who always competed in the all-around. Sitting out gave her a better understanding of her teammates' focus on one or two individual events.
``The week before state, she showed (me) her grips because there was about a centimeter rip at the bottom of it,'' Bishop Dwenger coach Rose Nix said. ``I asked her if she had another pair of grips broken in and she said no. I thought, `Oh my gosh, because they can rip and then you're done.' We looked at them on Thursday before state and it was getting a little bit bigger.''
The Saints held their last workout at Ball State the night before the state finals, and the grip was just hanging on, no pun intended. It maybe had one more routine in it.
Linvill was lucky with her grips and performed well enough on the bars to earn a 9.375, good for seventh place. As soon as her routine was completed, she noticed her grip had about a 2-inch tear in it.
``Well, I don't need this anymore,'' she said and easily ripped the grip apart the rest of the way. The grip, and Linvill, had survived just long enough to finish the season. It wasn't how she planned from the start, but it was still a very good season.
``I think it was a really good year,'' she said. ``I think I improved a lot. Even though I might not have gotten the rankings that I did last year, I think I learned more through having to be patient because of the injuries and having to accept them.
``I think I like the bars more now than I used to. I'm going to take a week off to rest and then I'm going to get back in the gym, and I'm really excited to work some new skills on it. I can't wait to see what I can come up with.''
First, she'll have to buy some new grips.