Myia Hambrick didn’t have time to sort out her emotions prior to the LSU gymnastics team’s first meet against Iowa on Jan. 9.
The freshman all-arounder found herself in all four lineups — vault, bars, beam and floor — when the Tigers took center stage in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
She was among the first to vault, making a positive first impression by scoring a 9.850.
And then she stumbled: once on the beam, resulting in a 9.250, and another on the floor, finishing with a 9.350.
“Mentally, it’s a little bit shaking,” Hambrick said. “You’re like, ‘OK, this is my first meet and they’re putting me in for everything. This is kind of unexpected.’ It was a lot for me to take in — but that’s fine, because I have to get used to it eventually.”
Fast-forward to the Tigers’ seventh meet of the season against No. 2-ranked Florida on Friday. Hambrick is now an integral piece of LSU’s No. 3-ranked squad, having taken part in all but one meet, mainly participating on vault and beam.
An introverted freshman, Hambrick has let her performance do the talking.
Hambrick was one of two freshmen to see action in the squad’s season opener (Erin Macadaeg also got her first taste of competition). But despite the early stumbles and the overwhelming atmosphere inside the PMAC, Hambrick said it was the exact experience she needed to start her career.
“It helped my confidence a lot because I’m not really a naturally confident person,” Hambrick said. “I rely on experience and that kind of thing, and I think (LSU coach D-D Breaux) kind of picked up on that.”
When Hambrick first came to LSU, she had plenty of work to do. Breaux continues to bring along the freshman every day at practice.
If Hambrick shows fright, Breaux has to “get in her face” to remind the newcomer of her toughness.
The coach keeps a watchful eye on the rookie.
“She really kind of trains like a guy,” Breaux said. “She works really hard, and she’s very determined in her practice. But she doesn’t show a whole lot of emotion a lot of times. She just goes about her business.”
Hambrick and Breaux are on opposite ends of the personality spectrum. While Hambrick is quiet and more reserved, Breaux is flamboyant and outgoing.
That isn’t a problem for Hambrick. In fact, she’s used to it. Hambrick’s mother, Laurie — who coached Hambrick during her club career at West Georgia Gymnastics — is fairly similar to Breaux, she said.
“She’s a lot like D-D in the way that she’s very enthusiastic and matter-of-fact about what she expects and all of that,” Hambrick said. “I’m kind of used to that style of coaching.”
She said her introverted personality actually complements Breaux’s extroverted attitude.
“It doesn’t really clash with my own personality,” Hambrick said. “I think if I were more outgoing, we might have a little bit more problems. I appreciate what she does, and I do respect her a lot.”
As the meets have come and gone, Breaux has continued to trust Hambrick. The Temple, Georgia, native has seen time in the lineup against four Top 10 teams, and she performed in all four rotations once again against No. 9 Georgia, collecting a 9.900 on beam and vault.
The freshman said she has found herself slowly getting into a comfort zone since that first meet against Iowa.
“I’m starting to get a little more comfortable competing,” Hambrick said. “It’s about blocking out whatever is extra because there’s so much extra going on in a big arena.”
She’ll have to bring that mentality with her to the PMAC when the second-ranked Gators come to campus Friday.
Hambrick said she believes she and her teammates can handle the stress that comes with taking on Florida.
“There might be a little bit of added pressure,” Hambrick said. “But we can control it.”