Athlete of the Issue: Stacee Mendonca

March 10, 2009 — by Shannon Galvin and Rebecca Nguyen

Gripping the trapeze bar, sophomore Stacee Mendonca takes a deep breath before she jumps off the high platform and swings through the air. She maneuvers her body into a tuck and grabs backwards towards her partner, waiting for their hands to connect. She then lets go of her trapeze bar, trusting her partner as they fly through the air.

Since kindergarten, Mendonca has spent hours every day practicing on the balance beam and floor. Last summer, she put those skills to use by adding trapeze and aerial silk (in which acrobatic performer is suspended by special fabric) lessons to her current gymnastics regimen.

“I first started when I was 4,” said Mendonca. “I went to a birthday party and someone told me I should start gymnastics so my mom signed me up and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Mendonca devoted much of her time through elementary and middle school practicing for competitions. She competed from fourth through seventh grade and then decided to take a break when the time commitment grew to be over 16 hours a week, too much for her liking. She then returned to the gym recreationally for three hours per week.

“Recreational gymnastics is much different from competitive [gymnastics],” said Mendonca. “You get to play around a lot more instead of conditioning and working out all the time.”

Last summer, Mendonca also decided to try something else that involved the gymnastics skills she had worked hard to perfect, and signed up for the classes at the trapeze school with a friend at her gymnastics coach’s recommendation.

Mendonca continues to take classes throughout the school year. She drives up to Oakland once a week for an hour and a half of acrobatic training.

“[On the trapeze], we learn different skills like catches and swinging,” said Mendonca. “[And then for aerial silks] we do stuff where you climb the trapeze, wrap yourself up and then let go and drop. It’s really fun.”

Mendonca attends these classes in addition to her regular gymnastics. She spends about six hours per week training, and says she loves what she is doing.

She also said she likes meeting people who are training for the circus at the trapeze center in preparation for joining the circus.

“There are some interesting personalities there,” said Mendonca. “Everyone wears tights—even the men. This one guy wears these bright blue tights and another sings whenever he goes—really loudly.”

Mendonca says she hasn’t developed any circus personalities of her own, but does like to collect different types of tights to wear there.

“My friend and I started buying these outrageous tights to wear there so we could match—tie dyed ones, leopard print ones, sparkly ones,” said Mendonca. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Although gymnastics takes up a lot of time, Mendonca plans on continuing until she graduates.

“I just think it’s exciting because it’s kind of scary,” Mendonca said, “but at the same time it’s a lot of fun.”

5 views this week