While earning various conference and state honors, Hand junior gymnast Stefani Taschner keeps up her success with a drive to be the best in everything, whether it is on vault, beam, or in the books. (Photo courtesy of Stefani Taschner
Hand's Taschner Strives for Best as "All-Around" Gymnast and Student
Published February 19, 2013. Last updated 09:27 a.m., February 21, 2013
As she started out doing cartwheels on a soccer field with her dad coaching her, Hand gymnast Stefani Taschner had little idea that the fun and games would lead her down a path of striving to perfection on the gymnastics mat and as a student athlete.
In addition to the junior being a part of consecutive SCC championship squads with the Tigers, Stefani has set high individual marks as well, being named to the All-SCC, All-State, and New Haven Register All-Area teams a year ago. Within that season, Stefani saved her best for the big stage as she was last season's SCC vault champion at the conference's title meet. After hearing her coach describe the All-State athlete, the list of accolades is no shock given Stefani's dedication to being the best individual she can be in multiple facets of life.
"Stefani is one of the most talented gymnasts on our team and her dedication and desire are obvious. She's often the first and last one at practice and has made collegiate gymnastics her goal," says Head Coach Kelly Smith. "She works extremely hard in the gym, in the classroom, and is a great example of what a student-athlete should be. This year, she has been doing well and will look to make a run at all four events and all-around podium at SCCs."
In trying to describe her dedication to excellence, Stefani keeps it simple. To her, it is about seeing the maximum and yielding the most from it. Despite many amazing accomplishments, the best may still be to come for Stefani.
"A lot of my drive to be the best comes from realizing my full potential and then acquiring my dreams with the potential," says Stefani, who earned a 9.05 for the vault at last season's State Open. "I do consider myself a perfectionist with certain things in life, but for the most part, there are things I need to have perfect. My ultimate goal with gymnastics is to compete at the Division I level in the NCAA."
One of those things which Stefani made sure was perfect was her vault performance at last season's conference championship. While it is one of her better events among many, Stefani was happy to also have her fellow Tigers beside her as Hand again took the SCC title.
"All of us had clear mindsets heading into the SCCs last season," recalls Stefani, who won the vault with a 9.20. "It was an added plus to have the rest of the team behind me as well. Vault is one of my better events, my anchor, so I just went out there and hit my routine. It felt really good winning it and it just showed all the hard work paid off."
Stefani now has high expectations for the postseason this winter for Hand. Having confidence in herself, she also expresses the sentiment that the Tigers have the depth to claw to the top of Connecticut.
"I felt at the beginning of the season we had a very good chance to make states," says Stefani. "We are an extremely deep and talented team this season and we have high hopes for our team. We would like to place in the top three of the state this season."
Stefani's drive does not stop once she leaves the mat. Even with long hours of preparation in the gym, she does not forget about her main priority of academics, in which she sports a B average. Much like her creed with her mat work, she feels it is more about accuracy and quality than speed and quantity.
"School and gymnastics takes up most, if not all, of my life," says Stefani, who is looking to study military intelligence at Air Force Academy while continuing as a gymnast. "Both really take a lot of time and effort, but I always strive to be a good scholar. While I make sure to hand in all my assignments in on time, I also make sure that my work is the best it can be. Coach Smith always tells us how schoolwork comes first, then gymnastics."
Through her quest to be the best, Stefani has acquired many life skills. After various injuries early in her Tiger tenure, she has learned to make the most out of what life deals her way.
"Since my freshman year, I have torn tendons in my ankles many times and it set me back," says Stefani, who thanks her father Craig, along with Smith, and personal gymnastics coach Steve Revis for success. "Yet the setbacks gave me opportunities to do other things like work on core muscles."