MERRILLVILLE | One is compact, powerful and excels on the beam and vault; the other is tall, lithe and excels on the floor and bars.
Together, seniors Taylor Woods and Kristina Goodman are leading the Merrillville gymnastics team to its first IHSAA state championship meet in over a decade. The Pirates placed third at the Valparaiso regional, earning a team bid to the championship meet for the first time since 2002.
For all their differences, Woods and Goodman have together created a resurgence in the Merrillville gymnastics program. It’s a legacy coach Diane Roberts is both thankful for and proud of.
“Together, they’ve always had that 1-2 dynamite punch and have added to our program from the first time they came into our gym,” Roberts said. “They are very headstrong young ladies and have had this dream since they were in middle school. They’ve had the dream, they’ve had the ambition and they also have the work ethic.”
Woods and Goodman both came up through the Merrillville gymnastics club starting in the sixth grade, though both have been in the sport since around the age of 4. Still, neither has any memory of Merrillville’s most recent trip to the state championship meet.
“I don’t remember at all,” said Woods, whose sister Taryn also went through the Merrillville gymnastics program. “(Going back to state) means a lot to me because I know 2014 will forever be remembered as being the team that went to state … it’s a great accomplishment.”
After four years of competing side-by-side at the high school level, Woods and Goodman have learned to feed of off each other, complementing their contrasting styles as competitors and as leaders.
“I’m more of a loudmouth, I guess. If someone’s messing around, I’m going to get on you about it,” Goodman said. “Taylor’s more of the ‘oh, can you do this for me?’ – you know, she’s quiet.
“I think the difference with our gymnastics is that she is amazing on vault and beam, so she has us on that, and I have us on floor and bars. I think, growing up with her and having that support behind me no matter what – and me supporting her – it kind of evens us out to be one gymnast instead of two.”
Though both seniors compete in all four events for the Pirates, the high school gymnastics experience has been eye-opening for the duo, who learned quickly that a spot has to be earned in bigger events like the Duneland Athletic Conference meet and the IHSAA postseason.
“(As a freshman), I didn’t understand how sectionals worked, how regionals worked, how the DAC worked,” Goodman said. “Not everybody competes; it’s just the top four.
“Now, as a senior, it’s like ‘OK, I’ve got to fight for my spot now.’ It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in, it doesn’t matter how old you are, in high school you’ve got to fight for that spot.”