Kirkland, UW gymnast rekindles love with the sport
By MEGAN MANAGAN
Kirkland Reporter writer
March 10, 2011 · Updated 9:06 AM
For almost the last two decades, Ruby Engreitz has donned leotards and hit the mats at gymnastics practice. It hasn’t always been easy, certainly not always fun, but it is something she recently discovered a new love for.
The University of Washington junior, and member of the Huskies gymnastic team, is hitting her stride this season, posting career highs and winning events. For a time, though, it wasn’t always an activity the Kirkland native necessarily loved to do.
Engreitz, a Inglemoor High School graduate, has been involved with gymnastics since she was three, and competing since she was seven. An injury her senior year of high school meant missing the entire season, which created questions for her as she embarked on her collegiate career, and even though last season.
“I’m definitely just a better gymnast now than when I came in,” she said prior to practice in the final weeks of the regular season. “Coming in as a freshman I wasn’t very consistent, I was actually hurt my senior year of high school, so I hadn’t competed my senior year of high school, so I came in and I was kind of unsure. It took me a long time to figure out gymnastics again and really this is the year that I really fell back in love with the sport. I’m having a lot of fun.”
With her new found love and passion Engreitz is now posting the scores to prove it.
“A few weeks ago at ASU I had probably the best meet I’ve ever had,” she said. “I won the all-around and got career highs on a couple of events. So that was kind of a break through meet for me and really brought up my confidence. That felt really good.”
Engreitz also tied for first place on the bars, her fourth bars title of the season so far.
“Bars is definitely my best event, it’s been my favorite event too. I’ve definitely gotten more consistent in competing this year so that’s been going well. I’ve always been pretty good at it and it’s something that not a lot of people can do."
She followed that performance up with a second highest all-around score of her career during a non-conference meet against Michigan State on March 4. She also won the floor event, her first of the season.
"She's having a phenomenal year," said Husky head coach Joanne Bowers. "She is one of those who is doing it all."
During the meet against the Spartans, Engreitz finished fifth in the beam, her self-described weakest event.
"This is actually the first year I’ve been competing on beam – it’s been kind of my nemesis event," she explained. "I’ve improved in consistency this year and with some people we lost to injury we’ve had to have some people step up and I’ve been one of those people. It’s actually been going well. I’m happy with that. It’s just one of those events that’s never really clicked for a long time and now it’s finally starting to."
While gymnastics at the high school and club level is largely about the individual, Engreitz said at the collegiate level, it's more about the team, something she's really enjoyed being apart of.
"We have really good team chemistry this year. We all really get along and we really enjoy competing and hanging out together, that atmosphere has been really fun this year," she said. "We actually set a bunch of team goals which really coincided with my personal goals – we just wanted to have more fun this season and enjoy each other’s company. During meets be there for each other and support each other and have fun with each other. That was one of my personal goals as well. For a little while I didn’t enjoy gymnastics that much, it was a struggle, I feel like even just having that goal to have more fun as helped me and the team as a whole."
Coming together as a team was part of the reason Engreitz choose the Huskies in the first place.
"It just felt like the right place. I really liked the gymnastics and I’m also really serious about school. UW is probably the best fit in terms of a gymnastics program that was building and that I could help them bring back their program and it’s also a really good academic school," said the psychology major. "That was important to me."
As a student athlete, one who has been on the dean's list many times, finding the right balance took some work. Figuring out how to make it all work, and staying sane in the process is a key to any successful college athlete's career.
"I’ve almost learned more about delegating – kind of how to manage many levels of things at the same time," said Engreitz. "As a college athlete it’s a lot different than being just a student. You have your school life and athletic life and social life and just really learning how to balance those is really what I’ve taken away from it."
She said typically the gymnasts have class in the morning, with practice running from 2 to 6 p.m. in the afternoon, and often hit the road for several days when they travel to meets.
"It's really a huge balancing act," she said. But when they get to the gym, its all about focusing on what is at hand, which lately has been perfecting well practiced routines.
"We’re just working on little details in our routine, because most of us have our routines pretty well down, they are pretty automatic. Now it’s just cleaning up little issues and consistency and our mental game and making sure we’re focused. Pretty much just maintenance and making sure we’re ready for post season," she said. The team will head to the PAC10 conference meet in the middle of March. To help ease off any extra mental pressure the team may put on itself, Engreitz said they work with a sports psychologist once and week. Bowers said the day before meets the team works less on specifics of their routines, working with a yoga instructor and other exercises.
"A lot of it is just in the gym, getting in the zone of making your routines count, kind of like in a meet," said Engreitz on how she mentally prepares. "We’ve been working with a sports psychologist once a week and he works with us on relaxation techniques and getting in the zone. I think that’s been helping our team."
While Engreitz still has another full season in the gym ahead of her, she knows, even if she doesn't let the thought linger, that these days are numbered.
"It’s a really rewarding sport – it’s one of those things, especially when you get to this age, you start to realize that not a lot of people can do these things and I’m only going to be able to do this for a couple more years," said the junior. "I'd better enjoy it while I can. It’s been a part of my life for so long it’s going to be weird when it’s gone. I’m just trying to enjoy it while it lasts."
Engreitz said she is thinking about attending grad school once she graduates from UW, but knows it's still a ways off. For now she's excited to see how the rest of the season goes.
"I’d just like to build on what we’ve started to develop this year, team chemistry, fun and I really want to get nationals," she said. "Hopefully again, because hopefully we’ll get there this year."Contact Kirkland Reporter writer Megan Managan at firstname.lastname@example.org.