Feb. 2, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. -
The transition from high school senior to college freshman is one that is often a mixed-bag of exciting and nerve-racking emotions, as students begin their college journey and have to adapt to new surroundings, peers and classes.
It's a lot to take in all at once.
When Stanford women's gymnastics freshmen Melissa Chuang, Maggie Teets, Jenna Frowein and Taylor Rice stepped onto campus for the first time in September 2012, they found themselves not only adjusting to campus life, but also to the rigors of training and competing for one of the top collegiate gymnastics programs in the country.
Each of the four freshmen tells a unique story of their acclimation to college life and inception onto the team. However, they each agree on one thing - they're in this together.
Despite each gymnast coming from a different state, it did not take long for a camaraderie to form among the group with each individual finding themselves dealing with the same uncertainties as the teammate next to them.
"Coming in, we didn't know entirely what to expect because there's no way you can entirely prepare for Stanford, it's something you have to learn along the way," Frowein said, a native of Kaneohe, Hawaii.
"It's really important having the other freshmen girls because the upperclassmen - though they've been really helpful, they're past the point of transition - so it's been really great having a close group of freshmen to support each other because we're all going through the same trials," Frowein added.
Teets, hailing from Colorado Springs, Colo., echoes Frowein's sentiment and agrees the other freshmen have played an instrumental role in helping her settle in to the new environment.
"I'm so thankful for the team," Teets said. "I don't think I'd be able to be in the gym and school, and all of the pressures that come along with both, without the support they have given me. We're really tight, so it's definitely been helpful."
The group's bond isn't just limited to the gym, notes Chuang, a local from Cupertino, Calif. Chuang says the group has a good time whether they're shopping, going for bike rides around Palo Alto, exploring San Francisco or enjoying their weekly dinner together on Tuesdays.
"It's been amazing because we're not just teammates, we're each other's best friends," Chuang said.
The transition from a club to collegiate team is a bit unique in gymnastics, in that the focus shifts to a team mentality in college from a more individual-based motivation in club.
Rice, a native of Las Vegas, Nev., believes it was one of the biggest but best adjustments to make.
"That's one of the hardest changes, is being a part of a team," Rice said. "But I really enjoy it at the end of the day. It's something to look forward to in my day, a close group of friends I'll have no matter what."
Along with building relationships among their classmates, the talented group of freshmen has had to figure out where they fit in on a Stanford team deep with talent.
A significant task considering the Cardinal is coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2012 National Championships, finishing just 0.35 points out of first - the team's closest margin to victory at the meet in school history.
Each freshman recognizes the talent on the team and knows earning spots in lineups can be difficult, but believes in their ability to contribute in a variety of ways. The group is eager to do whatever it takes to support the team, whether it's cheering on a teammate, working hard in training or being the team's comedic relief.
"Being a freshman, all I can do is contribute and gain as much experience as I can," Chuang said. "Being on a team where we are a family, my long term goals are the same as the team's, which is to do our very best and go for a national championship."
As the group prepares for its first ever home meet in Burnham Pavilion against No. 4 UCLA, one word seems to resonate with each freshman - excitement.
"I'm really looking forward to having a ton of support from our campus," Rice said. "Every other meet we've gone to has been one where the other team has all the support, all of the cheering, so it'll be really exciting to finally feel that energy of a big crowd for us."
Stepping out onto the home floor for the first time Saturday will likely be a moment similar to the first day of college with each freshman filled with that mixed-bag of exciting and nervous emotions.
However, this time, each of them will be standing with each other, side-by-side ready for the challenges that await them.
And taking it all in at once will be a moment shared and embraced.