There is “the smile” to pacify judges, and there is “The Smile” of perfection.
The essence of both can be seen on the face of Northfield senior Bailey DuPay, one of the state’s all-time best in two sports.
One smile shines during a gymnastics routine, or after a dive into a swimming pool. It glows just a bit more when she gets a 10 — a mark achieved numerous times in swimming but not yet as a gymnast.
“Bailey is a perfectionist who is very easy to be around,” Northfield girls’ swimming coach Deb Seitz said. “Everything she does comes so easy, and it always comes with this goofy, bouncy smile.”
DuPay is looking to close out a stellar prep career by becoming the first gymnast to win the Class 2A all-around state championship for three consecutive years.
She also won the Class 1A diving state crown for three consecutive years, starting as a freshman. She slipped to fifth this past fall in her bid to become only the second diver in state history to win four titles.
“Everybody strives to get a perfect score, but it’s rare to do,” DuPay said. “Anything less than a 10, though, shows there is still room for improvement. I strive for perfection.”
DuPay will continue her diving career in college even though gymnastics is No. 1 in her heart. She signed with the Minnesota State, Mankato program a week after the state meet.
“I’m OK with that,” Northfield gymnastics coach Paul Bernhard said. “Bailey’s still going to be doing something she loves.”
DuPay will be the first to say her success is largely based on a family-oriented household.
“They have always been there for me,” DuPay said. “They have been supportive of me in everything I’ve done.”
DuPay’s father, Dan, has served as her diving coach at Northfield. He and his wife, Kim, attend every possible meet in both sports.
They were absent when DuPay recorded her personal-best all-around score at the time in gymnastics. Her father had to undergo a kidney transplant, donated by her mother.
“They are one of the most incredible families I know,” Seitz said. DuPay has an older sister, Brittany, and younger brother, Brayden. “They are very heart warming.”
DuPay grew up wanting to emulate her sister, also a diver and gymnast.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my older sister,” DuPay said. “I idolized her.”
Injuries take a toll
DuPay’s love of gymnastics will be set aside for a college diving career in large part because of injuries.
“My parents have always said they would put me bubble wrap if they had the opportunity,” DuPay said.
She has suffered two MCL injuries to her left knee, two herniated discs in her back and a fractured foot. That’s on top of the everyday aches and pains.
“Gymnastics is a lot tougher sport on your body,” DuPay said. “You can’t get through a season without being injured at some point.”
DuPay got started in the sport at age 3. While many top gymnasts also compete at the club level, DuPay essentially participated just three months a year — the length of the high school season.
“It’s the toughest sport there is both mentally and physically,” DuPay said. “Diving is a lot easier, and your body doesn’t take the continual pounding.”
Odd year diving
DuPay, who started diving as a seventh-grader, turned in some of her best individual performances last fall in the final season of her prep career. She broke her own school record for six dives.
Yet, no state championship.
“Everybody is bound to have a bad day,” Seitz said. “I wasn’t disappointed in her. I was disappointed for her.”
DuPay’s final score of 391.15 at the state meet wasn’t much below that of her two previous state championship scores. But it was far below her scores earlier in the season.
“Bailey might not have reached her goal, but she held her composure very well,” Dan said. “I wasn’t able to help her much over the last two seasons. She had advanced beyond my knowledge.”
In a regular season meet last fall, DuPay received 10s from two of the three judges on one particular dive. The other gave DuPay a 9.5, preventing her from a perfect 10. That third judge was her father.
“It wasn’t a perfect dive, but I was the bad guy,” Dan said with a laugh. “Two of the judges got cheers, but dad got booed. That’s going to be a family joke for a long time.”
Bernhard doesn’t expect DuPay to be dethroned easily in her final gymnastics stint.
“When Bailey wants something, she goes and gets it,” Bernhard said. “She is tenacious.”
DuPay excels on the uneven parallel bars, but it was a floor exercise performance that cast her in the spotlight. She recorded a 9.9 and received a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd at the 2013 state meet.
“Her routines are so clean on the bars,” Bernard said. “But that floor exercise routine is still the only standing ovation I’ve ever seen at the state gymnastics meet.”
Only three other gymnasts have won more all-around state titles than DuPay.
Mindy Myhre of Mahtomedi won four Class 1A titles. Carolyn Boos of Blake won three Class 1A crowns while Sabrina Hoover of Rogers won two Class 2A championships and one in Class 1A.
“Bailey is one of the best gymnasts to walk through the doors of any gym,” Bernhard said. “She’s an elite gymnast.”
DuPay hardly considers herself elite in either sport. She’s personable, coachable and not overly concerned with winning.
“Winning state championships is nice, but I don’t want to be remembered for that,” DuPay said. “For me, it was more about pleasing the crowd. I hope they enjoyed watching my routines.”
All of which were anything but routine.