When Courtnee Owen began her high school gymnastics career as a freshman, she came into the gymnastics room at Hobart without any previous club experience.
"I didn't really know how to do anything, so I didn't even think I would make the team," she said. "It was a little scary. I was pretty nervous because all the other girls knew what they were doing."
However, those days of being the new kid with anxious, wide eyes are long behind Owen. Hobart coach Jenny Crespo has watched Owen rapidly improve over the course of her high school gymnastics career. Owen now averages a score of eight for the bars event, and has posted all-around scores in the low 30's at meets.
"She is probably a second-year Level 7 to a first-year Level 8 (gymnast)," Crespo said. "In four years, that's incredible. If she would have done it when she was little, she would be clear of a Level 9 right now."
With a background in cheerleading, some aspects of that translated over to gymnastics. However, Owen came in with no idea how to tumble, and experienced a great deal of frustration through the beginning of her career.
"I would come home my freshman year and be like 'I can't do anything,'" she said. "My parents would encourage me to stick with it, and Jenny and Jose (Crespo's husband) were also a major help. They both pushed me. Even if I fell on my face, they would always tell me to get back up and continue. Now, I just laugh, get up and do it again because I know I'm better than that."
Owen's vault event is sometimes limited by shin splints. Though a common injury in gymnastics, the pain was so great that Owen had to quit competing with Hobart's girls track team last season.
"My trainer said I had to choose between track and gymnastics," she said. "I might go back into it this year, but it depends how bad my shins are and if my trainer says I can."
As the only senior on a young Hobart squad, Owen is a team captain and is counted on to provide leadership, both vocally and by example.
"She inspires the other girls, because I tell them all the time 'If she can do it, you all can do it,'" Crespo said. "She's a very hard worker, and she is an all-around gymnast."