Sac State gymnasts follow in footsteps of their mothers

AJ Taylor

During a season in which women’s gymnastics coach Kim Hughes planned to rely on a core of senior gymnasts to lead his team, injuries have plagued the Hornet seniors, but still there remains a light shining for the team and it comes radiating from a freshman.

The tale of Katie and Kaitie is one of many similarities and many dissimilarities. Senior Kaitie Kinser, and freshman Katie Osaki, both recruited walk-ons of the Hornets gymnastics team, have been solid members of their team in different ways.

Kinser has always been a rock for the Hornets – averaging a 9.336 on the floor over the 2010 season – but this year she has struggled to even make the lineup because of a nagging knee injury.

“Last year she competed on floor every meet,” Hughes said, “Because of this knee injury she has been struggling a little bit, but she certainly has displayed the character of someone who has prepared and been ready for the season. Unfortunately this injury has sidelined her a little bit from being one of the top competitors.”

Kinser is far from the only senior with a hampering injury. Other seniors also nursing injuries this season include Lissa Zamolo, Jasmine Lipkaand Amanda Bieber.

Osaki, fresh out of Lutheran High School in Elk Grove, has stepped up this season, Hughes said. Her floor exercise routine and vault performances have been integral in providing the Hornets high scores during a season in which a lot has gone awry.

“She’s been doing remarkably well for us and showing some consistency,” Hughes said. “And she’s a walk-on, very similar to (Kinser).”

Osaki is a specialist for the Hornets. She averages a 9.633 on the floor and a 9.45 vault score. She has been there for the Hornets when injuries prevented others from doing so.

“I’ve been doing pretty well,” Osaki said. “It’s my freshman year, I was trying to get acclimated to the team and everything, so I’d just say it was a good start.”

Osaki’s quick and impressive start could have been aided by her coach. Hughes has now begun his 27th season as head coach of the Hornets. He is the winner of two Coach of the Year awards, both coming after championship seasons, the first after the 2003 season and the second in 2006.

Hughes coached both Kinser and Osaki more than 30 years ago &- not the Kinser and Osaki who now compete for the Hornets, but their mothers.

During his time as an assistant coach at Chico State, Hughes coached the two current Hornets’ mothers.

“(Mother Kinser) was an all arounder,” Hughes said. “She worked all four events. As I remember she excelled on floor and vault but she was an all-arounder. She was powerful, she was one of our better tumblers, a lot like Kaitie in that respect.”

Some may wonder whom the better gymnast is.

On the Kinser duo: “I’d say they’re about equal status. Not to be diplomatic.”

But Hughes had a stronger opinion on the Osaki family.

“Katie, in this case, was probably … it’s different though,” Hughes said, “(Osaki) is a powerhouse, like Kinser. Her mom was more style and grace and she was more, I’d say elegant on floor and the same style (on vault), but she was also an all-arounder, so that would probably be the difference.”

Either way, Osaki and Kinser are today providing strong support for a cast of highly touted, but “beat up” gymnasts.

“It was kind of a rough start,” Kinser said. “But we’ve been picking it up and improving every week and doing what we need to do in the gym.”

So far in 2011 the Hornets are not far from having a winning record with 2-4. Before joining the WAC in 2006, the women’s gymnastics team had won five of its conferences championships in six years, including two Western Independent Conference championships and three Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships.

In their first two seasons competing in the WAC the Hornets’ gymnasts stole the crown in “06 and “07.

The goal remains the same for the Hornets. Another WAC championship is constantly in their sights and even after a less than ideal start, their confidence remains high.

But Hughes sees that adjustments need to be made, the way things are going right now “our chances are slim,” Hughes said, but the injuries are beginning to heal and much of the season remains.

The team will be waiting to see if the tale of Kaitie and Katie has a happy ending.

AJ Taylor can be reached at [email protected]