Bethany Pryde and Jasmine Brown have been selected as two of just 13 girls to represent the state of Texas at the NHSGC. The prestigious selection not only represents the first girls from Cooper High School to participate in over a decade but years of hard work, dedication and friendship. It is certainly a story which would perk the ears of any Abilene sports fan. But it is the story of exactly how these girls got there which should really grab your attention.
“They're actually going to be competing level 9 at nationals,” head coach Tami Galloway told KTXS, “which is one level before Olympic level.”
“I've been dreaming of going to nationals since I was a freshman,” Bethany Pryde explained, “I've wanted nothing more than to qualify for that team.”
“Me and Bethany, we’ve known each other since I moved here,” Jasmine Brown explained of her friend and team mate, “we went to middle school together. I found out high school had gymnastics and that’s when I got into it. I waited until my freshman year just to get in it.”
The fact that Brown picked up gymnastics formally at such a late age makes the qualification even more unlikely. While Pryde is a traditional lifelong gymnast, Brown is just going on her fourth year. Coach Galloway told KTXS that even she has a hard time believing it.
“To have made it in Nationals and to have just started in High School is very rare. It has happened before but a lot of it is natural talent.”
The girl's natural talent showed themselves more than ever at this year's State Championship. While bringing honors back to Abilene was their primary team goal, making the national squad was an individual dream the girl's didn't know if they could face apart. Coach Galloway had to stay at home during her girls’ run at State due to travel restrictions because of pregnancy. In her place was boys coach Connie Jackson.
“Actually Jasmine talked to me before the meet,” coach Jackson told KTXS. “She was concerned that if something happened to Bethany and she didn’t make it and she did, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go.”
“I actually ended up falling,” Pryde described her State performance, “taking a fall on beam and any time you fall in an even, usually that’s it. You’re done.”
“Right after I saw her fall off the beam,“I was concerned she might not qualify,” coach Jackson continued.
So with their future hanging in the balance, Cooper's duo of national team hopefuls sat and waited for their names to be called.
“When they were going through,” coach Jackson explained, “they called Jasmine’s name first and she went up to the floor.”
“When she made it I was so happy for her,” Pryde recalled, “but at the same time I was like it’s going to be so hard to be happy if I don’t make it.”
“Jasmine was up there,” Jackson said, “she was smiling at her mom and looking back at Bethany and finally at the end, they announced her name and you could see that sigh of relief in both Bethany and Jasmine because Jasmine was going to get to go with her team mate.”
Going to Nationals is one thing but getting to go with your home-town team mate is another. These girls feel very lucky to have that opportunity. Besides having someone by her side as she boards a plane for the first time, Jasmine Brown is happy to have her friend with her in the gym at Fort Meyers.
“I think it’s going to be good because I know her and we’re going to be there to support each other.”
“Even if you didn’t do your best routine,” Pryde explained, “I know that she’s going to be there to support me and be there to say, ‘it’s ok’.”
“They want to win as a team,” coach Jackson summed up the impending journey, “they’re going to bond as a team and knowing that Cooper and AISD had a hand in championships, these girls are hungry and they want Texas to bring home the gold again.”