Our next Region 5 Level 9 Eastern National Champion hails from Perfection School of Gymnastics in Ohio. Kayta Sander not only won the Junior 6 All-Around she also swung to the National Bar title as well.
CONGRATULATIONS!!!! How does it feel to be the 2017 National Bar and All Around Junior 6 Champion? After restlessly training at the gym day in and day out and sacrificing so much, knowing that you are one of the best at the thing you love to do is an amazing feeling.
Tell us how your meet went today? Walk us through each moment of your day, warm ups, events etc… Coming into the most challenging meet I’ve been to in my entire gymnastics career, I was both nervous and excited. More than anything, I wanted to hit 4 for 4. At Regionals, I fell on bars and was still lucky enough to win, but I knew that wouldn’t be the case for Easterns. However, I also knew that this was going to be an experience that I would never forget and wanted to enjoy every moment. When I first came in and started warming up, I told my friend and Perfection teammate, Eliza Millar, who also made the Junior 6 Region 5 Team, that as long as we could get through bridges during warm up, we could do anything. Soon after we survived the hardest part of the meet, we began learning everyone else’s name on the team and getting to know one another. Our first event was beam. I was really happy with my workout on beam the previous day and was hoping I could just compete the same routine I practiced. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Despite having a good beam warm up, I ended up falling on my flight series– not my favorite way start a meet. I tried to stay positive, and with all of my region 5 teammates supporting and cheering me up, it was easy. Before floor, I remember thinking to myself ‘Hey, if you get a 10.0 on all of the other events, you could get a 38.875 and that’s really good!’. Of course I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but it made me laugh a little and gave me some hope!! I did my floor routine and I felt like the passes were pretty good in the air but all of my landings were a bit off. At that point, I thought for sure that winning was out of the question, so I tried focusing on just cheering on my amazing team and enjoying the whole experience. After me on floor was Eliza, and she did such a beautiful floor routine and I was so so happy for her. Next was vault. The whole week leading up to meet day, along with the day of training earlier, my vaults were “unorthodox” as my coach, ET, would call them. Thank goodness my normal vaults decided to come back during my vault warm up. I competed one good vault (the second was a little cray), and was really happy with how I did. Then, came bars (the event I had a love-hate relationship with). I just wanted to let whatever happened happen and be happy that routine assignments would be over. That was until my coach, Enrique told me something. He said “Katya, I am telling you this because I think you can handle it. You are in 9th place right now. But if you go out there and hit one of your best routines, you can still win.” And that sort of changed everything. I went into my last routine of the season with the mindset that I really have nothing to lose. I was very last on bars and the energy was super high. I tried my best to be aggressive, hit all of my handstands, and stick the landing. After my routine, everyone was congratulating me and I was overjoyed.
What do you normally do between events to stay focused and ready for the next event? Being completely honest, I really don’t stay focused in between events. For the most part I am just talking and dancing around, or in this case chatting with the new friends I made. I feel like doing this helps me not take things too seriously, enjoy the moment, and just have fun!! I do however try to drink lots of water and stretch a good amount between events so that I stay warm, etc.
Tell us about the atmosphere of the meet compared to regular season meets you have been too. The atmosphere of nationals is like no other meet you will ever go to. Unlike regular season meets, although the other gymnasts in your group are your competition, you don’t see them that way. We aren’t strangers or rivals nor are we from opposing states or club gyms. We are just one team that’s working towards the same goal; winning. The energy is also super high and the whole meet is very exciting.
What is it like being part of Region 5 at Eastern Nationals? (be descriptive) I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am to be a part of Region 5. During Eastern Nationals, all of the coaches and gymnasts were so so sweet and supportive. I remember after falling on beam, my region 5 teammates all gave me hugs and high fives and motivated me to not give up, as well as the coaches. The coaches also do a fabulous job at keeping the energy as high as possible.
How has your experience been here at Nationals? What have you been doing besides competing? Although you wouldn’t think Lansing, Michigan a very glamourous place, I had the best time. At the banquet which took place at Michigan State University, my teammates and I took crazy pictures, probably ate too many sweets, and took up way too much space on the dance floor. My experience here at Nationals is one I will never forget.
When the meet is over what is or what was the first thing you did to celebrate your win? While it would be nice to go to DisneyLand, my family, and my teammates, and I usually just go out to lunch or dinner together. This time I celebrated with a strawberry milkshake!
Other than becoming National Champion, what was one highlight of the meet for you today? The highlight of my meet had to be finishing my bar routine. Afterwards, my coaches all told me that they were proud of me and the giant hugs definitely proved it. Because I went last, I was able to finish region 5 off on a high note as well. I received high fives from all around and congratulations from many. It didn’t cross my mind that I had won until I realized I was getting an unnecessary amount of congratulations. Once I knew, I was pretty excited. It was also super awesome that some of my teammates came to support me all the way from Ohio and Kentucky (shoutout to Kelly and Maddy, love you guys ;)).
Anything crazy or funny happen during your meet today? I have to say, one of the region 5 coaches was quite the hype man. He was very good at making sure there was never a dull moment, and even made a cup full of popsicle sticks with cheers on them,
labeled with what event they were for. They were all very silly and pumped everyone up before each event. My coach, Luke, also attempted to tell a funny joke, which was pretty funny… The attempt, not the actual joke.
How does Region 5 compare to the other Regions out on the competition Floor? What sets Region 5 apart? The answer is they don’t. The other Regions can’t even compare to Region 5 out on the competition Floor. It’s not that we are better or any more talented. We just support and are cheer one another on. We want each person to do their very best, even if it means it changes your place on the podium because we are a team and that’s what teams do.
Who inspired you the most today? What did they say to you? How did you get amped up and motivated today? I am of course thankful for all of my friends, family, and teammates for supporting and motivating me throughout the whole season, but my coaches in particular all inspire me in ways I can’t even begin to thank them for. My bar coach, Enrique, gave me hope that I still had a chance to place and encouraged me to go out and give it my all. My floor and vault coach, Luke, never fails to remind me to have fun and take things one at a time. And last but not least, my sweet beam coach, Debbie, always gives me confidence that I didn’t even know I had.