By Hannah Bensen, Current Staff
When life throws you a curve, sometimes it is best to keep on competing.
This is the belief of Brandi Kreger, an East junior who won the conference gymnastics meet last weekend. This is all the more remarkable considering that Kreger has scoliosis.
Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine becomes curved in an s-shape. However, this does not stop Kreger from excelling in gymnastics.
Kreger began gymnastics at age eight, and hasn’t stopped loving it since.
“Between the stress of school and family and friends, gymnastics is a great escape, a place where I can go and forget about everything else and go and have fun. It has taught me a lot of life skills, how to push myself mentally and physically and be a team supporter. It’s really fun getting out there and competing and feeling the excitement,” Kreger said.
Kreger was diagnosed with scoliosis in the middle of her freshman year. She went to an orthopedic doctor after feeling some back pain, and her curve was severe enough to be worrisome.
“I was really scared at first. I definitely did some research on my own to see what it was about and I saw a lot of the videos of the surgeries. The first thing I asked when I got down there was if I was going to be able to continue with my gymnastics, especially with gymnastics being so hard on your back,” Kreger said. “Luckily, he said it should not affect my gymnastics.”
Her curve was so substantial that she had to wear a brace 20 hours a day during her freshman year in order to prevent the curve from worsening. The other option to correct the curve was a serious surgery that requires a metal rod to be placed in the spine. She says that she was self-conscious about the brace at first, because the brace is noticeable, but she adjusted as she wore it more.
“Gymnastics is a great excuse to get to take my brace off,” she said.
“I was really scared. The first thing I asked was if I was going to be able to continue gymnastics.”
– Brandi Kreger
By her sophomore season, Kreger had adjusted to her new condition and made strides in the off-season. She worked hard to fill the gaps left by the graduated seniors, and her drive and ambition have propelled her into success.
“Brandi sets really high expectations for herself,” said Haley Ransom, East gymnastics coach.
“She totally dedicated her summer to gymnastics, probably six days a week,” said teammate Katie Opgenorth. “She has that motivation. That’s one thing that sets her apart.”
“I do club gymnastics up until the day high school starts, and then as soon as my high school season is over, I go right back to club,” Kreger said.
This hard work paid off, as she began to score highly and place at her meets as a sophomore.
This year, as a junior, Kreger won her first meet at the West invite. Wining a meet is a big achievement, because the gymnast must score well in all four of the events: beam, floor, vault, and bars. This notable achievement is something that takes mental strength and consistency.
“You have those tough mental days, but that’s where you have to push through, and that’s where your personality shows,” she said.
Kreger’s next meet will be the varsity sectionals competition on Saturday at Manitowoc Lincoln High, which is where she can qualify for state. The top two teams in the sectional go to state as a team, and the top five girls in each event qualify as individuals. She is hoping to qualify as an individual for state. East also has a chance of qualifying as a team. In college, Kreger hopes to continue her gymnastics at the Division 3 level.
“I’m really hoping she qualifies for state on her own and helps the team qualify for state as well. I think she’s going to be a big contributing factor to that,” Ransom said.
In the meantime, Kreger will continue to become a better gymnast to achieve her high goals. “I have big goals for this summer. I’ve come a long way since last year and I plan to do the same for this year,” she said.
(Image: Brandi Kreger earned first place at the conference meet at Oconomowoc High on Feb. 20. Photograph courtesy of Kreger.)