Sac State gymnast reflects on journey before her senior season

Amber Koeth has always loved gymnastics, even when COVID-19 made it difficult


Jordan Latimore

Senior gymnast Amber Koeth posing in front of the Nest Wednesday, Feb. 9. Koeth earned first team all-MPSF on beam during the 2020 season.

Andrea Molinar

Amber Koeth had her best season as a Hornet gymnast in 2020, as she won the all-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation honors on beam along with many other accomplishments.

Koeth said this made the cancellation of the following season due to COVID-19 all the more difficult for her.

“Having to just let that happen was really tough,” Koeth said.

She described how excited she was for the season and her hopes for the team. They had a great chance at winning the conference and Koeth got a chance to qualify for regionals for the beam.

“It was going to be a really dramatic ending to the season and we didn’t get it,” Koeth said.

After being sent home, Koeth said she wasn’t able to continue her training because there weren’t any gyms open. She would work out with her father in their living room, but it didn’t do very much to keep her in the shape required for a gymnast, according to her.

When she was finally able to return, she said it was a great struggle.

“I mean I wasn’t able to do skills that five-year-olds can do,” Koeth said. “I had a really tough run-in with quarantine and letting myself slip.” 

Koeth was eventually able to get back into shape, however. According to her, she went on two-hour walks every day while her boyfriend helped ease her into a diet.

She also received support from her teammates like Karissa Hoffman who was her roommate during her freshman year.

“It was really nice always having [Amber],”  Hoffman said. “[She was] that built-in person that was there for you.”

According to Hoffman,  when their season was canceled, it allowed her and Amber as well as the team as a whole to grow closer together.

“We were all in it together and it really made us bond as a team,” Hoffman said. “We realized that the easiest way to get through the pandemic and all the challenges we were [facing] was together.”

Prior to COVID-19, gymnastics wasn’t always such a struggle for Koeth, according to her. She got her start in gymnastics at just four years old when a family friend commented that she would be a good fit for the sport.

“[At the time] we had no clue what gymnastics was,” Koeth said.

However, once she started, Koeth said she immediately enjoyed gymnastics.

“I’ve always loved the sport, I think more than I should,” Koeth said. “I mean when I was younger I would cry when I couldn’t go to practice.”

Amber Koeth posing as a child in her gymnast gear. Koeth is a senior captain on the Sac State gymnastics team.
(Photo courtesy of Amber Koeth)

Koeth credits Olympic gymnasts Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin with being some of her biggest influences growing up as a gymnast.

“The 2008 Olympics was the first time that I’d actually paid attention to gymnastics other than just me doing it by myself,” Koeth said. “So watching the two of them do things that I was like: ‘Oh my gosh, what if I could do that?’”

A couple of years later, when she was around eleven, Koeth switched gyms, joining one called Gymcats.

“I genuinely think that if I wouldn’t have left that gym I was at, I would have quit,” Koeth said. “That has nothing to do with that gym, I just worked so well [at Gymcats] that it was just the perfect fit.”

Koeth said that a great deal of her growth as a gymnast came from her time there. 

“The coaching staff at Gymcats was just phenomenal,” Koeth said. “They were so great at getting me where I’m at now.”

One of her coaches was the gym’s owner, Cassie Rice, who began working with Koeth once she’d reached the top group.

“I thought she was a really good kid to coach,” Rice said. “She was cheerful with the other kids and positive.”

When Koeth was looking to be recruited, she said that she put a lot of trust into Rice’s suggestions.

One of Rice’s daughters, Lauren, was attending Sac State at the time of Koeth’s recruitment. She was also a Hornet gymnast, competing from 2015 to 2018. 

“For the athletes, we kind of let them choose on their own but my daughter had gone [to Sac State] and she had a really good experience,”  Rice said.

According to Rice, It was that familiarity that caused her to recommend Sac State to Koeth. 

Senior gymnast Amber Koeth using the beam in a face-off with Air Force Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at the Nest. Koeth finished top four in-floor competition against the Falcons.

“Cassie had sat me and my mom down and told [us] that being at Sacramento State with Melissa Genovese, Nicole Brandt, and Randy Solorio was like the perfect fit,”  Koeth said.

She said Rice described the environment as safe and welcoming and that she would have a fun time at Sac State.

Koeth committed to Sac State on a full-ride gymnastics scholarship verbally in June 2016 before making it official in November 2017.

“It’s been the best opportunity of my life,” Koeth said. “I mean, I’m twenty-two years old and still doing something that I love.”

Koeth said she is excited for her last season as a Hornet but hasn’t decided what her plans for gymnastics are after graduation.

“I really love the sport a lot and I don’t know if I would just walk away from it and do other things,”  Koeth said.

She added that she is unsure about whether or not coaching would be the right thing for her but is willing to give it a try in order to keep gymnastics as a part of her life.

“[Coaching would] continue my development in the sport in a different way,” Koeth said. “I think that would be awesome.”