Kacie Capra is well-accustomed to life on the road. Travel came with the job of being the daughter of David and Edith Capra.
So, traveling with the BYU gymnastics team to nationals this year should be second nature to the sophomore all-around gymnast for the Cougars.
She started learning her craft at the age of seven but had to quit for a couple of years, "because we were moving around a lot," Capra said. The family found itself in California, Arizona and Midland, Texas, before they finally settled in Kingwood, Texas, for Capra's sixth-grade year. They liked it so much, they decided to stay. And it's still home for the girl that now travels with the gymnastics team and spends her winters in Provo.
But she's not without family, even at BYU. Kacie's sister Ariel is a senior on the Cougars' softball team. She was a solid pitcher for BYU during her first three years but suffered a rotator cuff injury and had surgery. She's now making a comeback and spending time in the Cougar outfield.
Hard work is a common denominator for both Capra girls who traveled different routes and both wound up on athletic teams at BYU.
"We're more serious about sports than the other kids (in the family)," Kacie noted about the three oldest girls. Oldest sister Rebecca ran cross country for Texas A&M. The Capra family does love its sports, but none of them can seem to agree on their favorites.
"I've tried other sports like swimming, basketball, tee-ball, soccer. But its fun to me and a challenge that you're just relying on yourself to do it in gymnastics," Capra said. That, along with the fact that "I've always liked the feeling of flying through the air."
Unlike sister Ariel, Kacie has been blessed so far through her career with not having too many tough injuries. The one major injury she has suffered didn't come from gymnastics at all.
"I was walking down the stairs one time and tripped and broke my foot," said Capra, sheepishly. But when it comes to the tough and injury-riddled sport of gymnastics, she knows how to fall and not get hurt.
"Any event hurts to fall on, but it doesn't hurt too bad when we fall because we learn to fall flat," she said. And her favorite event provides plenty of wild and crazy falls that make the fans say "ouch."
"I like bars. It comes naturally. When everything works together so well, it's all so smooth," said Capra. But what she really enjoys is just competing wherever she's needed.
When Sierra Jacobs went down with a freak injury in the middle of the season, "they put me in the all-around, and I've been competing it ever since."
She'd been working all events and was ready and willing to do whatever she was told. Because, despite enjoying the challenge of relying solely on yourself that the sport of gymnastics provides, Capra would be lost without the team she's found at BYU.
"College is a lot of fun because you have the support of all your teammates," she noted. "The pressure is different than in club because you're not doing it for yourself, you're doing it for the team. Club is all about self."
Another change from club to college that Capra has enjoyed is the greater freedom she has in choosing her own routines and tricks. "We get more say in college in the skills that we want to do," she said.
But there's something else about college athletics that provides even more of a challenge, and that's the pressure of being a student athlete. And the Cougars find themselves traveling to Auburn for the national finals at precisely the most difficult time of the year: final exams.
"Finals stress everybody out," Capra said, adding that the team got as many as possible done before leaving for Alabama on Tuesday. She did take one with her and worked on it on the plane ride down so she doesn't have school in the back of her mind all through the biggest competition of her collegiate career.
And the Cougars made it to the national competition because they maintained their balance on the beam and put together great scores, then waited while Oregon State just missed the top-notch performance they needed on the uneven bars to supplant BYU and get to nationals themselves.
"We were just a little behind before beam and knew they had to get a big score to beat us, and we were sitting over there adding it up in our heads," she said. "But it didn't really hit me (that the Cougars had made it to nationals for the first time since 2000) until they lined all the teams up in order, and they lined us up right behind (first place) Utah." The top two teams advanced.Comment on this story
The Cougars have been battling injuries throughout the season and are hoping the various stress fractures and other problems will not interfere in the girls' final routines of the year. Though Capra is injury-free so far, many of her teammates, including all-around competitors Jaime Mabray and Marie-Helene Claveau, are pushing through recent injuries with great results.
BYU coach Brad Cattermole will never use injuries as an excuse for difficulties, however, as he notes that all teams are suffering from little nagging things at this time of the year.
And with finals and the plane trip left behind, the Cougars are now concentrating solely on the future. Thursday's evening session will tell the tale. The top three groups will advance to the finals, but all Cattermole is looking for is a team that goes out and fights as hard as it possibly can.
"If we do our best and we come in 12th, then we're just the 12th best team, and I'm OK with that," he said.