Women’s Gymnastics: Beck’s big impact

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April 9, 2010

2:49 AM

Her parents are named William and Mary. That’s eccentric enough at least for a newspaper story, right?
She also holds conversations in her head during meets. Not every gymnast does that. Watch her on the balance beam — she literally talks out loud to remind herself what checkpoints to hit in the middle of her routines.

No, it’s her name isn’t it, which draws the most attention? The perfect name for a gymnast. The type of name that makes headline writers salivate.

Yes, her nickname is Teenie.

But junior Cristina “Teenie” Beck is so much more than a nickname. She’s a transfer student, a history major, a prep superstar and an all-around champion. And after only one season with the Tribe, Beck has already established herself as potentially one of the top women’s gymnasts ever to compete at the College.

“She has come the closest to the all-around record than anybody has in a number of years,” Head Coach Mary Lewis said. “I think she can be right up there.”

Beck almost never made it to Williamsburg. After a distinguished prep career in which she took sixth place on the beam at the 2007 Nationals and was Florida state champion in the all-around in 2005, Beck chose to attend Penn State.

You can see her in the 2009 Nittany Lions Media Guide. But Beck never really took to the big-time gymnastics lifestyle.

“It was just not the atmosphere that I wanted,” Beck said. “It was a little too serious about gymnastics, not as much about school. The coaches cared more about your output than the actual person. I was totally worn out on it and wanted a new start.”

After a sophomore season in which Beck didn’t compete, she decided to transfer. Her mother, Mary, made it clear that she couldn’t take a step down academically from Penn State, forcing Beck to choose between Kentucky and the College.

Beck’s history major held some sway in her final decision. So did the fact that the College was a change in lifestyle, both academically and athletically.

“Not in a bad way, but [here] things are more geared to academics,” Beck said. “We don’t get special treatment, which isn’t bad at all to me. When I go out into the real world, I’m going to be treated the same as everyone else.”

Already convinced of the school’s academic reputation, the team’s general demeanor won her over, and Beck enrolled at the College last year.

“[The team] has been awesome,” Beck said. “I wouldn’t have come here if it wasn’t for them. They have just been so accepting and the perfect group to come into. It’s just like I had been here the whole time.”

Beck’s career on the mat at the College didn’t begin quite as smoothly as her relationship with her teammates. An injury forced her to miss the first three meets of the season, giving the junior a different perspective on the sport as she supported her teammates.

“I think it might have [helped me],” she said. “I went to the first two meets and I just got to see how [the team] interacted, how they treated competitions differently than other teams.”

Upon returning to competition, Beck finished fourth in the all-around in her first meet of the season at West Virginia. Her score of 9.700 on the vault, combined with her team-leading scores of 9.650 and 9.550 on the bars and floor exercise, earned Beck her first ECAC Gymnast of the Week Award.

She would earn another such honor after the Tribe’s dual meet against Temple, where a score of 38.900 tied her for the fifth-best all-around score in school history.

Beck’s success qualified for the NCAA Southwest Regional Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va. She is the fourth Tribe gymnast to compete in the event as an all-arounder in the last 10 years.

“If you look at the stats, I know I got the fifth-highest score in school history, but I just really wanted to come in and help this team,” Beck said. “I feel like I have the same mentality and I feel like my work ethic has really been helpful to the team.”

Lewis, for one, believes Beck has the potential to write her name at the top of the College’s record books next season.

“This might sound a little cliche, but I don’t think I ever was surprised [about Beck’s performance this year],” Lewis said. “We had high expectations for her and she has come through.”

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