This past weekend was one I will never forget. I had the opportunity to reunite with gymnastics teammates and coaches that I hadn’t seen in 30+ years at the gymnastics camp I used to go to each summer. Some of these girls and coaches I hadn’t seen since I was 10 years old, others I hadn’t seen since I was 14 or 15.
Stormy, spotting me on a full twisting back with Mike Dennison looking on
Stormy and a typical trip in the Trans Van to a meet (photo by Sheryl Gardner May)As I child and later a teen, I was on the Desert Devils gymnastics team in Tempe/Scottsdale, AZ. I spent at least 3 hours a day and Saturdays at the gym training with these girls. They were like my sisters, the coaches; my adult role models. We would laugh together, travel together, compete together, go to the lake waterskiing together, and cry as well, together. I watched with awe at the older gymnasts, hoping one day I could be as good as they were. I also was like a big sister to the younger gymnasts that perhaps thought the same about me.
Saturday, as I entered Super Camp on the now wide gravel road, I thought how much quicker it was to get up here these days since the roads were no longer muddy and full of very sketchy dips and holes. The Aspen trees were holding the camp in their loving embrace. Past the pond we used to dive into and swim to the slide after running miles just as the sun would break, to achieve the status as a member of the Polar Bear Club. Yuck. The water was a dark green, almost black. It hadn’t changed in all of these years. How did we do that?
Arriving to camp the first thing I did as I got out of the car was close my eyes and take a big breath in through my nose, smelling that familiar again smell, the one I always loved, the smell of Aspen trees in the Mingus Mountains. I wished I could bottle that smell.
The reunion began. Many people were there. Many I knew, some I didn’t because they weren’t even born when I quit. I wished other teammates were there that couldn’t make it, but I felt that I represented them. The one person missing who should have been there; the person that started it all, was our head coach, Stormy. There was definitely a void I felt with him physically not there. You see he would have loved to have been there, but he passed away in a small plane crash in 1995.
former Desert Devil coach Craig Kirby
During the reunion, we spent some time having a special memorial to Stormy. I know he was there listening. Everyone knew it as well. At 2:26 every summer it would rain. It was about that time we did the memorial. The clouds rolled in, the thunder began, the wind blew in and out. We shared memories. Towards the end, the sun came out. The rain never came to Super Camp that day. Stormy was there and wanted to spend time with us. At the end of the day, we left camp in our cars. As we drove, not even to the end of camp, there was hail on the ground, marble sized hail. And driving further down the mountain, the hail on the ground was thick, like snow. A blanket of protection for everyone to get off the mountain safely.
In the 2 days we spent at camp this past weekend sharing stories about our time together and catching up on these past years we hadn’t, one thing that was evident was the pride we had at the end of the weekend knowing that we were part of a very special group of people that had accomplished so much and had such a great time doing it.
“Once a Desert Devil, always a Desert Devil.” (Quin Shannon, former Desert Devil coach)