Erin Davis, junior co-captain of the Temple women’s gymnastics team, has had an award-laden career, highlighted by an All-America selection last year and the Atlantic Ten Rookie of the Year Award. Her success, she admitted in a rare break during practice last week, began as a product of her mother’s concern for her childhood safety.
“I remember I was really little, maybe three or four, doing flips off my couch, and my mom got scared,” Davis said. “So she put me in a gymnastics class, so I would practice my flips constructively – and not kill myself.”
The ease with which she now hurtles her body about by her long limbs atop the uneven bars is earned through hours of practice. Similarly, she possesses an extensive vocabulary and impeccable enunciation borne from an unfailing dedication to her studies and possible aspirations of attending medical school.
“She’s very dedicated in and out of the gym, and I think the other girls really look up to that,” assistant coach Aaron Murphy said. “They look at her and all the hard work she does, studying like crazy and in the gym for hours, training.”
Davis, senior co-captain Jennifer Beaver, and senior Paige Ozaroski have enjoyed their tenures on the team during one of the school’s most successful eras in gymnastics. In Temple’s most recent meet, in which the Owls were outscored by Penn on a record-setting day for both schools, Davis broke her personal best record on the uneven bars for the second time in a week, with a 9.825 score.
Davis then ebulliently cheered on her teammates as they executed a series of high-scoring vaults to set a school record in the event. She has brought the same encouragement and authority to the team since overcoming her initial doubts about attending Temple.
“I didn’t really want to come here at first,” Davis said. “I visited and saw the area and was a little nervous, but I saw the team, and they seemed like a great group of people and their level of gymnastics was similar to mine. It seemed like they were having such a good time.”
Although her coach described her as quiet, Davis had few problems growing accustomed to college athletics. In her first year, she became an integral member of an improving gymnastics program and quickly earned the trust and affection of her new teammates.
In the bleachers at Penn, an excited woman cheered loudly when Davis took the beam for her second event of the day, but laughed good-naturedly when asked if they were related.
“Well, she’s almost like a daughter to us, since she is Lexi’s best friend,” Irene Zafferes said, whose daughter Alexis (Lexi for short), befriended Davis when they both joined the team as freshmen. “Lexi just loves her. We just love her.”
Zafferes’ emotions didn’t surprise Davis, who said current and former teammates have become her best friends and role models.
“Honestly, I have made better friends here than I think I’ve ever had,” Davis said. “Also, one of my captains from last year, Brynne Hillman, was always a big inspiration. She was always working so hard in the gym.”
This year, it is Davis whose hard work has inspired her teammates. She is culminating her athletic career as a leader, years after her mother first got her involved in gymnastics primarily as a precautionary measure.
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.