Kacie Capra Callens and the BYU Gymnastics team are looking for a return trip to the NCAA National Championships in 2007.
Senior gymnast Kacie Capra Callens doesn't have the glitter or sparkle that would be expected to come with a top competitor on a perennial top-20 program. There isn't even an amazing story behind her or what she does to be successful. She just keeps it simple, which seems to be working out great for her and the BYU gymnastics team.
The 5-foot-3 Callens' introduction to gymnastics came without anything spectacular.
"My parents always let us try any sport as kids," the Kingwood, Texas, native said. "I can't remember if I saw or heard something about gymnastics, but I told my parents I wanted to try it. I immediately loved it. The feeling of flying through the air was something I always loved so I just naturally gravitated towards it."
The Road to BYU
The two proved to be a good fit as Callens qualified for Junior Olympic Nationals twice, including placing 14th overall in the all-around. She also won the all-around at the 2003 regional competition. This led to several prominent collegiate programs knocking at her door, including perennial national powers Utah, Florida, LSU and Arkansas, before she chose BYU.
"Being recruited and choosing a college was one of the most exciting and nervous times in my life," Callens said. "I picked BYU because I liked the girls on the team and the coaches. I felt like it was a place where I could get a good education and do well in gymnastics. It also helped that my sister Ariel was on the softball team here because I knew that if I came I could be with her."
Callens and BYU have been good for each other. During the 2005 season, her second with the Cougars, Callens quickly made her way into the all-around line up. She went on to place eighth in the all-around at NCAA Regionals while helping lead the team to its first trip to Nationals in five years and a No. 11 national ranking.
"It was a wonderful and exciting experience," Callens said of her experience at Nationals. "Seeing and competing with all the other great teams was a lot of fun. It is the most thrilling experience because it is what the team works so hard for year after year."
This past season, with a very young squad, she posted career highs on floor and vault as the team's only all-around competitor and helped lead BYU to its seventh-consecutive NCAA Regionals appearance.
Marriage and Coaching
Shortly after this past school year ended she joined the ranks of married BYU student athletes, marrying Adam Callens. Life as a married athlete isn't much different than life as a single athlete to Callens thus far.
"It is basically the same so far, especially since I had dated my husband for two years," she says. "He has been to all my home meets and all away meets that have been in Utah for the past two seasons. It is always nice to have one more family member that is able to cheer you on and support you."
Callens also acknowledges that some of her success has come from the tutoring of BYU Coach Brad Cattermole.
"Brad is very good at being patient and helping to instill confidence in you," she said, recalling an experience with him. "My sophomore year I was having problems on bars right before (NCAA) Regionals. Brad came to the gym on our day off and patiently worked with me to get me over the problem. Regionals went amazingly well, and we went to Nationals that year. He's done so much for me."
Effort and Superstition: A Formula for Success
Cattermole has also enjoyed working with and seeing one of his star pupils progress.
"When Kacie first came here, she was just good enough to make it on bars and floor. There were some holes in her routines." Cattermole said. "When she figured it out, she worked her tail off and got it corrected. She will complete through thick and thin. She plugs through when things are tough and comes out strong."
Callens' teammates also recognize the effort that she puts in.
"She is a very hard worker," senior teammate Kendra Stephenson said. "She doesn't get distracted easily and sets a good example for the rest of the team to follow."
Heading into her senior season with BYU, Callens will certainly work hard to help the Cougars get back to Nationals. A little superstition may also come in handy for her.
"I like to make sure that I get a little nap in before each meet," Callens said explaining some of these superstitions. "My family will call and tell me good luck and that I am going to do well. I also make sure I have gummy watermelon candies in case I need an energy boost during the meet."
One thing Callens will not be doing is putting glitter in her hair.
"I don't wear glitter in my hair any more," she said, explaining another superstition. "I had a good meet one time when I forgot it."
Many close to Callens haven't even noticed that she doesn't wear glitter.
"She doesn't?" Callens' husband Adam said when asked about his wife's glitter superstition. "I didn't have any idea."
"I had no idea," Cattermole said. "Gymnasts always have funny little superstitions that they do."
Some of Callens' teammates seem to concur that glitter is not necessarily needed.
"It's just a mental thing," Stephenson said. "I wear glitter but it is only for show. It doesn't affect how I perform. If you do something different than you normally would though and you do better, you change it."
The Upcoming Season
Callens and her teammates will not have to rely on superstition alone this season. The Cougars boast an experienced and solid core of returning competitors that will certainly help a great deal. It includes juniors Dayna Smart, who ranked 16th in the nation on beam and placed fourth on vault at Regionals last year, Kylee Draper and Alethea Boon. Senior Lisa Willis is also back to add consistent scoring and experience, while junior Aimee Walker Pond, who is deaf in both ears and blind in her right eye, will add depth. A host of talented newcomers will also help strengthen the lineup on each event and push the returning gymnasts.
The success Callens and the rest of her BYU teammates will enjoy this season will not come because of glitter. It simply isn't needed.