Pleasant surprises kept delighting Mounds View senior gymnast Crystal Hanson at Thursday’s section meet at Irondale High School.
Hanson fulfilled her goal by qualifying for the Class 2A state meet in uneven bars. Winning the section title was a bonus.
Qualifying in the all-around was unexpected, however, and almost moved Hanson to tears.
She will compete against the state’s best Friday and Saturday at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion.
“The state meet is frosting on the cake,” Mustangs coach Julie Coopet said. “She is our hardest worker, a young lady who strives for more despite dealing with so much pain. But she made that secondary to her goals, and she was justified.”
Hanson’s hard work goes beyond the mat. She works two part-time jobs and takes postsecondary classes. Her goal is to become fluent in sign language and use her skills in the field of psychology.
A club gymnast since age 6, Hanson joined the high school team as a freshman when injuries forced her to train on a less strenuous schedule. Hanson qualified for state as a freshman in uneven bars but had not advanced again until this season.
She spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about battling injury, her memorable section meet and closing her gymnastics career in style.
Q: Take me through your section meet and how you ended up going to state in two events.
A: Being 100-percent honest, I only really cared about making it to state in bars because it’s my favorite. But I knew my score for the all-around was around a 36, and I was expecting to get fifth or sixth.
Q: When did you realize you had done better than you expected?
A: They announced the girl in fifth, and I just looked at my coach and almost started crying because that meant I was at least fourth and you have to make top four to make it to state.
Q: What kept you out of the state meet the past two seasons?
A: My sophomore year we still had Roseville in our section. They were really good, and I did not compete to my potential. Last year I fell, so this year I’m happy to go back to state.
Q: What’s it like returning with so much more on your plate?
A: I’m really excited because I love the sport. I’ve been in it for 12 years. But my heel and my back are hurting right now so I’m a little concerned about more training. But it’s worth it to go out with a bang in my last year.
Q: Did your injuries take anything away from your performances?
A: This season I have not had to miss any meets, but last year I missed a meet and a half because of my back. But I wanted to stick it out this year and fix my back afterward. I’m a senior, and I wanted to make my last year of gymnastics worth it.
Q: What sort of approach did you take into the section meet?
A: I went into the section meet with a positive mind-set. I was the only senior on the section team, and I told my teammates I wanted it to be a happy meet with them.
Q: Did that love come back to you once you found out you qualified for state?
A: Yes, they were really excited. After I landed my bars routine, everyone ran over and it was really amazing.
Q: What are you most looking forward to at the state meet?
A: Everyone is amazing at the state meet and since I will be competing in the all-around, it will be fun to see all the events. I made it, and that’s what was most important to me. Now I’m just going to try and do my best in my last meet.
DAVID LA VAQUE