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 An Interview with Kristen Riffanacht:   By Janis Gibson    

To succeed, at gymnastics or anything else in life, you need to be hard working, determined and extremely, extremely dedicated,”said Kristen Riffanacht who “graduated” from Gymnastics Revolution last year and is now a freshman on the gymnastics team at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. As of February 1, the team is ranked first in the National Collegiate Athletic Association for gymnastics; Kristen was ranked #30 in the nation for vault.

 

 

 

One of the biggest changes in making the transition from the club to college environment, said Kristen, is the workout time. “We practice a lot earlier than we used to in club. We practice at 1:30 instead of 4:30 like last year.”

    As far as competing in her first meet, “I was really nervous for the first meet, but not because it was going to be televised, just because I was thinking about all of those people in the stands. But once I walked out there, I was not nervous at all. I just went after everything the best that I could. The crowd was AMAZING!! And they were behind you the whole way. I have never had 10,000-plus people rooting for me before.”  

Kristen began gymnastics at age five; at eight she was 8 put on a team. She had no specific gymnastics role models as a child, but was always “glued to the TV” during the gymnastics portion of any Olympics.            Kristen’s family lives in Cheshire, Connecticut, and has been very supportive. She met R. Wallace at a local gym and trained with him there for four years, followed him to another gym three years ago, where she met and began working with Brian Bakalar, then followed him to Gymnastics Revolution when it opened.  

    Despite the time demands of the sport on a highly competitive level, Kristen does not feel she has missed out on anything and that all of her hard work has been well worth it. In addition to winning a full scholarship at the University of Utah, “I have gained a lot of discipline, I know how to fend for myself and I have developed leadership qualities,” she notes, “all things that will help me as I go through life.

     “I have always been willing to work hard, been determined to get things done and gymnastics always came first.”
Kristen admitted that it is easy to get frustrated at times, and that is when being dedicated keeps her going. Dedication is especially important when recovering from an injury, she notes.

    Kristen broke her arm when she was 13 and was out for 12 weeks, but kept working out. Last year Kristen came back from a dislocated elbow, which caused her to be out for six months, during which she wondered, “Am I every going to do gymnastics again?”     To keep in shape for competition, she did a lot of running and cardiovascular work, noting, “When you’re injured you have to keep using whatever works, you need to work everything all of the time.” She adds that bars were a struggle last year due to the injury.

 

Kristen was 9th AA in the 2002 Jr. Olympic National Championships.

Video Streams of the meets are available on the Utah Gymnastics Multimedia site:

Streaming Meets

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Meets are archived and also available live when the team competes at home.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Kristen stressed the importance of goal setting.        At the beginning of each season she decided, and still decides, what she wanted to accomplish, which skill set she wanted to improve during the season and over the summer. It is an attitude, work ethic, she said. “I am constantly asking myself, what am I going to do this season? If I missed something, how am I going to fix that?”

    When Kristen was 14, she set the goal to win a gymnastics scholarship; in her senior year of high school, she set as her personal goal to win state, regionals and nationals in vault. She won state and regionals and came in second at nationals.

    Her advice to youngsters just beginning? “Always listen; it’s huge. I wish I had listed to my coaches better when I was younger.”

    Kristen’s favorite event is floor; she enjoys both the tumbling and dance aspects of it. For the past seven years she has taken ballet; she also took one year of jazz. 

    Her sports role model is Venus Williams. “I like to watch her play; she has such intensity.” At school, Kristen loves attending Utah basketball games and watching tennis, but is “always focused on gymnastics.”

    Her college schedule is demanding. The 12-member team works out for four hours, four times a week, from 1:30 to 5:30 pm. At 6 am on Wednesday, the team meets for two hours of spinning and weightlifting, which is repeated on Saturday from 9 to 11 am. During the competitive season, however, the schedule varies somewhat.

    “Training for meets, we only do routines once a week before the meet,” Kristen said. “We work out hard on Monday and do just parts of routines and work on new skills and upgrades. Then Tuesday we do routines, but only about two average on  bars and beam. This is a big difference from the club; we used to do routines everyday and it was like at least 10 on beam and about four or five on bars.  

    “For floor, we only do one, but it has to be perfect or it doesn’t count,” she continued. “When we vault, we have to stick vaults in order to move on. It is not just ‘do them.’ We do this to save our bodies a bit because it is very hard and tiring competing every weekend. We have Wednesdays off from actual gymnastics but do spinning and weights in the morning. Thursday they give us a very easy assignment and workout is over when you are done. If that is 20 minutes then you’re done! Fridays we compete and if we travel for a Friday meet we leave Thursday and only have two days of practice.”

     On top of this, Kristen took 15 credits first semester, and is taking 14 this semester. She also gets one credit for gymnastics. She is majoring in exercise and sports sciences, minoring in psychology, which will allow numerous career options, including coaching and physical therapy.

The team members get along well, said Kristen, adding that they have a team meeting at every practice and pick a team goal to work toward each week. The team concept is also very strong; “It’s like having 11 sisters.” Members are very supportive of each other –– yelling for each other at meets –– and everyone needs to be ready for every event, although the upper classmen get the advantage to compete.

The Utah team is coached by Greg Marsden; his wife Megan is beam coach and bar coach is Aki Hummel from Germany.

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Recent Results:

UTAH vs. UCLA (196.75 - 197.25)

Vault: 9.800  Bars: 9.750  Floor: 9.825

UTAH vs. BYU (196.8 - 194.775)

Vault: 9.825  Bars: 9.825  Floor: 9.800

Utah vs. Arizona State (197.15 - 197.45)

Vault: 9.800  Bars: 9.850  Floor: 9.475 

UTAH vs. Minnesota (196.4 - 194.725)

Vault: 9.750  Bars: 9.175   Floor: 9.875 


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