WAUPUN – The way it worked at the Madison East prep gymnastics invite was two teams would rotate in each event.
One girl would perform from one team and another from the other team.
During the floor exercise, Waupun senior Megan Hansen had just finished and was waiting on her score from the judges.
“After Megan went, one of their girls was competing, but I saw the judges flash her score and I screamed her name across the floor while the other girl was still competing,” Waupun assistant coach Emily Engelhardt said. “I felt bad about it, but I was just all excited and screaming. I had happy tears. It was a great moment.”
Hansen had just been given a 9.35 from the judges, which was a career best for her in that event.
“That meet, they didn’t have the best floor because it wasn’t very bouncy,” Hansen said. “So, I was very nervous. I think since the floor wasn’t so bouncy, it made me push harder and try harder to make my skills better. My tumbling was better. I danced better. I just had a solid routine.”
It was the best score at the invite.
“Everybody was just so excited and it brought me to tears because I was so excited,” Hansen remembered. “It made me realize to keep pushing harder to get scores like that on everything, not just floor.”
After the meet, Engelhardt said it was “by far one of her best routines, and we were so proud to see that our attention to detail in our leaps, jumps, and execution was noticed and rewarded by the judges.”
Hansen needed to be perfect that day because she and the rest of the Warriors knew the floor wasn’t up to par and was described by Engelhardt as similar to a rock.
From how well she did that day, you never would’ve known Hansen suffered through stage fright all this year and still will be when the Warriors travel to Wisconsin Rapids for the WIAA Division 2 state gymnastics tournament Friday.
“I don’t really know why I got it,” said Hansen, who was recently named second team all-state in the all-around. “I just got very nervous competing in front of people. I got nervous because I wanted to get a good score. What if I didn’t? I didn’t want to let my team down.”
Hansen’s mom, Sue, believes Megan has always had it since she began gymnastics at six-years-old.
Megan’s coaches Jane Neevel and Engelhardt could tell over the years that she had nerves. They just didn’t know to what extent she had them.
The night before the Warriors were to travel to West Bend for an invite to get the season started in early December, Megan described to her mom what she was going through during practice.
Megan told her mom her heart was pounding, she had a hard time breathing and Sue said it sounded like an anxiety attack.
“I just kept telling her you’ve just got to breathe, relax and have fun,” Sue said. “It’s a stepping stone to your life. You shouldn’t get all checked out about it. What happens, happens.
“I just tried making light of the situation really. I just tried to tell her there was no need to get all worked up about if she had a good score or not.”
Megan has always been on the varsity team at Waupun and she felt she wasn’t standing out as much as she could even though she had the talent to perform well.
“It was actually probably my mom who helped me a lot because she helped with a lot of performance anxiety,” Megan said. “She helped me get through a lot of that, which was probably holding me back.”
But it wasn’t until this year that Megan decided to open up about her problem with her mom.
“I’m very proud of her,” Sue said. “We’ve gotten really close this year. I’ve seen her grow and mature this year.
“She is able to open up and we just made it work this year for each other.”
How has Sue helped her daughter with her mental health?
“She helped reassure me that it’s not the end of the world,” Megan said. “If you do good, then awesome. If you don’t then you have other meets to make up for it to show your best.
“She showed me it doesn’t make me any less of a person if I make one mistake.”
By talking it out Megan performed better than she ever has. In fact, Neevel said she’s been the anchor of the team this season after losing so much senior talent from last season.
“I realized that I can see my potential so I push myself harder and when I compete I try not to let the nerves affect me as much, and I try to do what I know I can do,” Megan said.
“I didn’t score as high as I have this year,” Megan added. “Last year we were so full of talent in our team that – I was still recognized (last year), but this year I allowed myself to come out more. I’ve seen the higher scores that I know I could get last year and the other years.”
It’s not just Megan, Sue and the rest of the Warriors who noticed her performing well, Engelhardt and Neevel have as well.
“We’ve definitely noticed how much more confident she’s been,” Engelhardt said. “Obviously, she’s broken all of her event records this year and her all around has been at least a point higher every meet than it was last year.”