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Senior close out careers in Coleman

The gymnastics team will host the University of Oklahoma on Friday. CW | Pete Pajor

Kayla Montgomery

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As they prepare to compete against the defending co-champion, coach Dana Duckworth said the leaders will have to stay focused on the moment they are in rather than the outcome of the meet.

“They’re a very fiery leadership team,” Duckworth said. “They have a lot of energy. There’s no question in their desire and their want to be successful, but in experience we’ve seen if you put the want and desire too far ahead of just enjoying the moment, it can backfire on you. What I will talk to them about all week is that saying we keep saying, be where your feet are. Don’t jump ahead of the process, 
enjoy today.”

Duckworth said each of the four seniors on her team, Kaitlyn Clark, Hunter Dennis, Lora Leigh Frost and Kayla Williams, are competing at their highest level of collegiate gymnastics as they prepare for the final stretch of what is likely the end of their 
gymnastics careers.

“You start as a freshman, you blink and you’re a senior,” Duckworth said. “I think about how they have developed as women in their character and just becoming women, the way they carry themselves with confidence, the way they conduct themselves in public, and the confidence they carry – I’ve been here a long time, and this class was the second class that I truly recruited and got to watch through and through. Everyone may think they’re naturally brilliant, they’re naturally gifted, but they work so hard, so I’m proud and I’m so honored that they are my first senior class as a new head coach.”

While many sports offer the prospect of professional competition, collegiate gymnastics is the final destination in the journey for competitive gymnasts, bClark said she hopes to continue her involvement with the sport as a coach while she begins her career as a 
physical therapist.

“It’s hard for me because I love this sport so much and it’s what I’ve known since I was 3-years-old and what I’ve dedicated basically my whole life to, so it’s hard for me to walk away from it,” Clark said. “It’s also bittersweet because I get to move on to physical therapy school and get to move on to a new chapter in my life, so it’s 
also exciting.”

As her career culminates with her final home meet, Williams, who will graduate in August with a master’s degree in sports management, said the relationships built outside of the gym will be what she carries with her.

“I think when it’s all said and done, more so than competition and championships, I’m going to remember the times in the locker room with the girls and just hanging out and dancing around and just really having that sisterhood,” Williams said.

As the first class to graduate under Duckworth, Clark said the team has worked to carry on the legacy of the program created by former coach Sarah Patterson, and if it has preserved that legacy, the senior class has 
been successful.

“We’ve been talking about protect the legacy all year, one thing that we have been focused on is integrity, respect and class, and that’s what this team has carried throughout the years since Sarah Patterson started this program, and I think that’s what we’re built on,” Clark said. “If we can have those things competing throughout the year and that’s something that people remember about us, then we did our job.”

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Senior close out careers in Coleman