Byron's Roble embracing leadership role for defending section champion Byron
Amber Roble had a hard time with how she performed at last year's Class A gymnastics state meet, but she channeled that energy into a positive for a young Byron squad.
BYRON — The ending to Amber Roble’s junior season was one she took personally.
The talented Byron gymnast entered last year’s Class A state gymnastics meet as the defending runner-up on the beam after an inspiring performance her sophomore year.
Yet, in her second go-around at the state meet, Roble couldn’t replicate that success.
She finished eighth on the beam and 14th (out of 24) in the all-around — more than respectable finishes — but not up to her own standards, as well as the expectations from others.
“Last year, after not placing at state, it was really hard,” Roble said. “I was second-guessing myself, like, did I not do what I normally do? Was I trying to one-up last year?
“And, people expect so much from you after you just had a second place finish at state."
But perhaps, it was a blessing in disguise.
She took a step back, realizing that she had one more season left in high school gymnastics and was going to be the leader of a different-looking Byron squad — one that had just reached state for the first time since 1991, but graduated a number of key contributors.
It is responsibility she takes seriously.
“I have a bigger role on the team knowing that a lot of people look up to me,” Roble said. “This year, one of my goals is to try to be more encouraging, more positive, so if I don't have a wonderful practice routine or something, I'm going to try to stay positive because the younger kids do see that.”
With that in mind, she stopped beating herself up as much. Instead, focusing on the best that she could be on that given day.
It has made a noticeable difference.
“She's ready,” Byron coach Charro Coleman said. “She wants to have a good year. And you can tell she's pretty focused. Excited for it.”
It hasn’t been lost on her teammates either.
“I've always looked up to her,” junior Lydia Evans said of Roble. “Ever since she joined the team. It's always fun, because we like to push each other.”
Supportive teammates are always important, but perhaps none more than in gymnastics.
For a number of reasons, the sport is considered by many the most mentally and physically grueling.
It can wear down even the best in the sport. Look at Simone Biles — the top gymnast in the world entering the past two Olympics — even she had a hard time overcoming the mental obstacles the sport throws at athletes.
Evans found herself in a similar position this summer.
She had a great sophomore season, winning a SE Minnesota Conference title on the vault, before qualifying for state in the all-around, where she placed 21st.
She wanted to keep improving on her vault routine in the summer, but she just had a hard time with it. Same with the uneven bars. Like Roble was not too long before, Evans found herself stuck in her head.
“During the summer I was struggling so much,” Evans said. “I was just like, 'what if I don’t do gymnastics here, or what if I just don’t do a certain event?' I was planning on not competing in bars, because I didn’t have a dismount for bars. I was scared. I tried to go for it in the summer, then I found something, then I got hurt.”
Evans suffered a concussion while playing a game at a gymnastics camp around the first week of August. It knocked her out for a few weeks.
When she returned, she had to regain that confidence.
That's when Roble and her teammates stepped in, providing any type of support she needed.
"Teammates really help," Roble said. "I think they really understand what you're going through. Because every gymnast has gone through a mental block before."
Evans credits that support system for getting her back into a more self-assertive spot.
And now, those two are hoping to help get the Bears another Section 1A title. With a deeper and improving section, it will be a tough challenge, but one Roble and company are looking forward to.
“We’re excited for the new season, new opportunities, new obstacles to overcome,” Roble said. “I'm just excited to see what this season has for us.”