A Sisters' Reflection
“Nicole is like my sister,” Maloney said of her classmate. “We’re honest with each other. We’re a perfect compliment to each other, and even when we have a disagreement, just like sisters, we’re OK two minutes later.”
“Even when we’re home on breaks, we can not go more than a day without checking in on each other,” Roach agreed. “Tina is my best friend, and I consider her to be my sister.”
The duo will rely on each other’s support this weekend, as the Mountaineers return to the WVU Coliseum after three straight road meets and close out their home season against No. 8-ranked Arkansas tonight at 6 p.m. Prior to the competition’s award ceremony, Maloney and Roach, along with student athletic trainer Sally Miller and student manager Jenn Sharon, will be honored by their coaches and teammates.
“This season has flown by,” Roach reflected. “I’m probably the most upset that this is my last meet in the Coliseum. It’s scary to think about, and I’m really trying not to dwell on it. It’s sad, but it’s also exciting because I’m with everyone that I absolutely love. I’m glad I get to spend this meet with them.”
Maloney and Roach have made quite the name for themselves over the last four seasons. Each unique gymnasts – Maloney is known for her power, while Roach’s grace is often envied – they agree that this year has been memorable.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had with gymnastics,” Maloney, a Hanover, Ind., native, said. “It’s the girls and the atmosphere. We all get along. Our team is one unit; it’s not split into distinct groups.
“I think it all starts with (coach) Jason (Butts). He handles everything with our team so well. When we have a fall in a meet, he huddles us together and reminds us that we’ve got everything under control. He doesn’t get too upset, and he has formed a new atmosphere.”
While Maloney credits her coach for keeping the team together, Butts has entrusted his seniors with leading the squad in the gym. Roach believes she and her classmate were groomed for this role.
“I think, as a senior, your teammates already look to you for leadership because you’ve been here for three years,” the South Lyon, Mich., native explained. “I would hope that everyone is comfortable to talk to both of us. I’ve always let the senior classes handle everything, so when my time came, I really wanted to step up and be that leader.”
Maloney and Roach have certainly put in the requisite hard work and pushed through plenty of adversity to earn the right to lead this team.
One of the squad’s strongest tumblers, Maloney impacted the Mountaineers’ success on vault and floor at the onset of her WVU career. One of her greatest memories is winning the 2009 East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) vault title with a career-best 9.9 score. She shared the honor with former teammate Chelsi Tabor and hopes to bookend her career with a second title.
“That would be awesome,” she said of the prospect. “It was such a surprise my freshman season. I was still learning, so to win the title was huge.”
While Maloney, a three time All-EAGL honoree, continues to excel in the event and currently ranks No. 22 in the Southeast region, it is the time she has spent this season competing as an all-arounder that makes her the most proud.
“When I first came to WVU, I wanted to compete as an all-arounder,” she explained. “In my mind, I’m not achieiving or doing my best unless I’m contributing to all four events.”
Reaching senior status does not mean Maloney competes without struggle, as the addition of a Double Arabian E pass at the front of her new floor routine has proven.
“It gives me something to work toward,” she said of the pass. “I did it in club gym, and even though I have to work at it, I’m excited that I can compete an E tumbling pass as a senior.
“Whenever I get frustrated, (junior) Kaylyn (Millick) reminds me that most gymnasts water-down their routines as a senior. I still do an E pass and an E dismount on bars. It’s nice to know that I can still put forth the effort as a senior.”
Roach was not sure she would be able to compete her senior season. Easily the Mountaineers’ strongest bars specialist, the three-time first team All-EAGL bars honoree was stricken with a painful shoulder injury late last year. Forced to choose between surgery and the possibility of not swinging as a senior, she opted to have the surgery last spring.
“It’s been a long process,” she recounted with a smile. “I was in a ton of pain last year. The whole rehab process has been long, but worth it. All of the time and surgery was worth having a solid senior season. I didn’t want an OK senior season – I wanted to have the best possible year. I knew surgery would give me that chance.
“It was really scary. One of the precautions to the surgery was the possibility of not competing bars again. I couldn’t face that future. The doctor decided not to tighten my shoulder because my release requires extreme flexibility, and I think he did a great job. The pain is tolerable.”
Shoulder healed, Roach continues to factor in to the Mountaineers’ success on bars, as she ranks No. 24 in the Southeast region and boasts a season-high score of 9.825. Yet, no matter what she accomplishes this season, she says that little could compare to her favorite gymnastics memory.
“My favorite moment was when my mom (Wendy Roach) handed out the flowers at our 2011 ‘Pink Meet’,” she said of the night she scored a career-best 9.875. “I won the event, so she had to give me the flowers. When she hugged me, she told me I was going to make her cry. I had to tell her not to cry! I could have burst in to tears so easily that night.”
The duo also has excelled in the classroom. Maloney, a nursing major, is a three-time EAGL All-Academic team member and a two-time NACGC/W Scholastic All-American; she expects to graduate in August and hopes to find a nursing job at a children’s hospital. Roach, a two-time EAGL All-Academic team member, is a child development and family studies major. After earning her first career NACGC/W Scholastic All-America honor in 2011, she looks to graduate this December and foresees graduate school in her future.
While both have a trained eye on the years before them, just like sisters, they share one goal that fuels their hard work in the gym – winning an EAGL Championship.
“We’re the only senior class that hasn’t won a title,” Maloney said. “We’ve had some ups and downs this season, but I’m hoping we can pull it together right around that championship.”
“I also want to score 196.0,” Roach continued. “We know we’re a 196.0 team. I think we could hit that mark against Arkansas. They’re a great team, and I think the scoring will be even. If we hit like we do in Cary Gym every day, and take that energy up to the Coliseum, we’ll be completely fine. I’m just waiting for it to happen.”
Regardless of how their senior season ends, Maloney and Roach are more than confident in the future of WVU Gymnastics.
“I hope all three coaches are still at WVU in five years,” Maloney said of Butts and assistants Travis Doak and Bridget Boyd. “I think they all work really well together. This program knows it’s a Top 18 team, and I know Jason is going to take it as far as it can go. I look forward to seeing that.”
Roach echoed her “sisters” sentiments.
“I want everyone to continue to get better and for the team to move up the national ranks,” she concluded. “I think this program can consistently compete at the national championships. We expect to make the regional championships now – I want the future teams to expect to make it to nationals.”
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