By Mat LaBranche
A pair of local gymnasts punched their tickets to California, where they’ll escape Ottawa’s notoriously frigid January weather.
Mackenzie Nauss and Robin Tarnocai will be representing Team Ontario at their respective levels for the Jan. 12-14 California Grand Invitational, after successful showings at the Nov. 10-12 Team Ontario Gymnastics Tour Selection.
“I’m both nervous and excited,” said Nauss, 15, a member of the Tumblers Gymnastics Centre. “It’s a big stage but it’s great that I’ll be able to represent Ontario in another country. I’m also looking forward to bond with people my age in the same sport.”
Nauss finished 5th overall in the level 6 category, which included: 1st in vault, 15th in bars, 14th in beam and 16th in floor. While she found it hard to initially grasp the fact she made Team Ontario, Nauss credits her coaches and the pre-competition demeanor that was set.
“It was my first year in this level, so my coaches said there wasn’t really any expectations going into it,” revealed Nauss. “I just kind of went in thinking of it as a fun competition and just went through all my routines.”
Having started gymnastics just three years ago, Nauss takes a great deal of pride in her recent accomplishment.
“A lot of people from my gym started anywhere from 18 months to six years old,” said Nauss. “I started at 12, so I’ve had a little less training time. Sometimes I’ll just sit back and realize what I’ve accomplished in the short time I’ve been competing, and it serves as a real confidence booster.”
Meanwhile, Tarnocai, 13, took a different route before arriving at her Team Ontario selection, as her parents signed her up for gymnastics at the early age of three. Nevertheless, the Nepean Corona School of Gymnastics product still shares similar sentiments to those of Nauss.
“It was my first competition of the season,” said Tarnocai. “I was kind of nervous, but overall it was a pretty good performance and I met the goal that I set for myself. I had no falls, and basically did everything clean. I was in shock before the excitement set in.”
Tarnocai finished 3rd overall in the level 9 category, with 8th, 10th, 2nd, and 4th place finishes in the vault, bars, beam and floor, respectively.
While she knows it’s an important competition for her newly formed team, Tarnocai is going to treat the upcoming invitational as if it was a “bonus” event.
“I’m excited to go because I like competing with Gymnastics Ontario and I’m looking forward to competing with a new team,” disclosed Tarnocai. “I think it’s going to feel better and a bit easier because it’s more for fun this time, as there isn’t as much depending on it this time (as there was with the Tour Selection).”
The California-bound pair will continue their intense training program, while squeezing in a provincial qualifier in December, before heading off to the Grand Invitational.
An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Robin Tarnocai and Mackenzie Nauss as each other. The Ottawa Sportspage regrets this mistake.