CROWN POINT | Some freshmen can walk into a high school gymnastics room for the first time with wide, anxious eyes. Though they may be excited for what lies ahead, nervous feelings can also overcome them.
Crown Point freshman Hannah Best doesn't fit that mold. She immediately dove head-first into the Bulldogs' program and is expected to make a tremendous impact this season.
Of course, it wasn't hard for Best to get right into the mix when she already had more than five years of competitive experience under her belt. Her status as a Level 9 gymnast didn't hurt, either.
Best got her start by taking gymnastics classes at age 2 and starting competition when she was 9, so the sport has been an enormous part of her life.
"It's a little easier," Best said, reflecting on her prior experience. "It's not as nerve-racking as USA (Gymnastics). I know a lot of people from different schools, so you know if the schools will be good or competitive."
Though Best already had good confidence going into the LaPorte Pairs on Dec. 15, she came out of the meet with a tremendous boost of it.
Paired with senior Megan Supan, the duo finished second on bars with a 9.15 score, helping the Bulldogs edge second-place Chesterton 16-14 and win the team title.
"Before beam and before bars, (Supan) would give me a pep talk and get me more confident and excited," Best said.
Crown Point coach Ami Pysh said the last gymnast she could remember in her program to score above 9.0 in bars was Trisha Eberly, who graduated in 2009. Best has been watching the Bulldogs in meets for years, and her performance so far has been a blessing to the team.
"I'm really glad she opted to do high school (gymnastics) and be with her old teammates (from Gymnastics Plus)," Pysh said. "When she does skills, they're so effortless.
"What I like about Hannah is she's a go-getter. She doesn't have any fears. There have been many times over the years where I've had talented gymnasts, but their fears get in the way."
Best's even-keeled demeanor is rare for her age, but a much-welcomed addition to the program.
"I've had some resistant kids over the years and it kind of messes up the glue of the team," Pysh said. "She's seen how I run things and she has known what to expect. For her coming in, it's been a beautiful transition even though I've never coached her previously."
With the win at the LaPorte Pairs, morale is quite high in the Times No. 3 Bulldogs' gymnastics room. A goal to at least advance past sectionals as a team is not out of the question, and helping the team advance is Best's main goal.
However, Best also has set some lofty expectations for herself.
"I want to get 9's on every event," Best said. "It would be nice to make it to state, but I know that's a lot of work."