Christine Liautaud towers over her competitors, which would be advantageous if she played volleyball or basketball.
Since the Cary-Grove senior is a gymnast, her height is more of a detriment than a benefit. She spent a good portion of her freshman and sophomore years tweaking tricks and relearning routines after she sprouted 8 inches to reach 5-foot-8.
But Liautaud persevered. She remained focused on her goal of landing a gymnastics scholarship to an NCAA Division II school, which happened last week.
Liautaud, who competes for Trinity Academy of Gymnastics in Lake in the Hills, committed to four-time D-II national champion University of Bridgeport (Conn.) on Nov. 19. Her commitment came a few days after the NCAA’s early signing period, so she will sign her NCAA national letter of intent in April.
“My whole gymnastics journey, I got through on what I did by myself,” said Liautaud, who does not compete in high school gymnastics. “I had great family support, but I wanted to prove what I could do by myself. In fourth grade, you begin to realize the Olympics are not going to happen. The next-best thing is a scholarship, then there comes the point that it may not be D-I. D-II is next, and that’s ultimately what I achieved.”
Liautaud, 17, started in gymnastics when she was 2. She has worked out at Trinity for nine years and competed at Level 10, the highest level of youth gymnastics. Former Trinity gymnast Emily Turik competed at Bridgeport before transferring to Lindenwood, a D-II school in Missouri, over the summer.
Between Turik, whom Liautaud calls her best friend, and Trinity coach Chris Riegel, who has known Bridgeport coach Byron Knox since the 1980s, Liautaud felt she knew the school well.
“Byron wants his athletes to focus on learning new things and getting better and better,” Liautaud said. “At most places, girls keep routines for four years. He wants to upgrade your routines. And they’ve won four D-II titles in a row, that was also a factor.”
Riegel and Knox became friends in the early 1980s when they were on the U.S. national team together.
“My relationship with Byron never supersedes the scholarship,” Riegel said. “It’s wonderful for her to go to the four-time champions. That’s the place for her to be and make an impact on the team. She’s a remarkable team player and has been our captain for two years. The other girls call her ‘Mother.’ Byron’s looking at her as a flag bearer for that the next four years.”
Liautaud thought about joining Turik at Lindenwood, but they would have been teammates for only one season together.
“I am so pleased and proud of Christine,” Riegel said. “Her family could have sent her to any school, but she wanted to do this on her own. It’s a perfect fit for her.”
Dodge, duck and dip: The Hampshire Dodgeball Tournament will be taking registration for teams starting Wednesday through Jan. 18. The tournament, played at Hampshire High School, will take place Feb. 10.
Teams will use six players at a time and entry fees are $15 for each player. The proceeds this year will go to a Hampshire freshman who lost his father this year. The money will be put into a college fund for the boy and his sister.
Anyone interested can contact Patti Nihells at 847-792-3647 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Joe Stevenson is a senior sports writer for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @nwh_JoePrepZone.