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Collected Wisdom; Taylor Spears, OU national champion gymnast

Taylor Spears was overcome with emotion last week when asked to describe what it meant to share the championship with her mom. She had no siblings, and her father died when she was a fifth-grader.
by Jason Kersey Published: May 10, 2014
/articleid/4748444/1/pictures/2585591">Photo -  Oklahoma's Taylor Spears competes on the balance beam during the NCAA  college women's gymnastics championships on Saturday, April 19, 2014, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Oklahoma's Taylor Spears competes on the balance beam during the NCAA college women's gymnastics championships on Saturday, April 19, 2014, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

When you’re a girl, you pretty much know at the age of 15 or 16, if you’re gonna be able to do it or not. The girls on the Olympic team are 16 or 17 years old. It’s just a totally different life.

I definitely don’t regret that decision. I mean, it’s amazing what they do, but to get there is very, very hard.

All year, we didn't ever have a meet where we all showed up. There were always a couple people who weren't there, and it was cool to see because we hit it (at nationals) when we needed to. It was perfect.

We ended on vault, Alabama was ending on beam and Florida was ending on floor. Vault is the fastest event, so we were done before everyone, so we just sat there and watched.

We were watching Bama, and their first girl fell on beam, and their last girl fell on beam, so as soon as that happened, we realized we really had a shot. We stopped worrying about them, but Florida was still on the floor.

Hayden Ward is really good at math, and she was adding it up. She said, “This last girl needs a 9.95 to tie us.” I was like, “To tie us? There’s never been a tie, ever. That’s just impossible.”

Sure enough, she went 9.95. We had no idea what was gonna happen. Was there a tiebreaker? We didn't know what it meant. We were all crying, because we were just so anxious.

One of the Florida coaches came running over and said, “You did it.” So all of us thought we had won by ourselves. It was very confusing for about 10 minutes.

We go up on the podium, and Florida is holding the little first-place trophies, and they’re handing us the second-place ones. Then Florida called us over to be behind the championship banner, and I thought, “What is going on?” Then they announced that we’d tied as co-champions.

They’d just run out of individual first-place trophies.

I didn't even know how to react, because we won, but at the same time … I don’t know.

We won. It was just weird.

My mom came to every meet my senior year, even the ones we traveled to.

All the money she spent for me … I’m glad it was all worth it for her, too.

The first year was tough for me, just adjusting. I struggled in school, struggled in gymnastics, so we didn't talk a whole lot because it just made me upset because I missed her.

Sophomore, junior, senior year, we talked all the time, and now we talk every day.

We’re best friends. I couldn't ask for a better friend than my mom.

by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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