All-Region Gymnastics Athlete of the Year

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Taisha Duran is no stranger to being among the best at what she does. Two years ago, she was our All-Region gymnast of the year.

This year, though, she was even better.

Duran won her third consecutive Class 3A state vault title. Impressive enough, for sure.

But she really made this her year the previous day, when she rolled to the state all-around title.

Duran finished with four individual state titles in her career, becoming the most decorated female athlete in her school’s long history of sports.

That’s cool, right? “I’m always going to be remembered for gymnastics. My name’s on the school wall. It’s made gymnastics stand out more.”

Thoughts on being named gymnast of the year: “I’m excited about it. Even though state was a few months ago (February), I’m still getting compliments, and ‘good job’ and ‘congratulations.’”

Most embarrassing moment this year: “That’s hard now because I don’t get embarrassed over anything in gymnastics. If I fall, I fall.” … Then she recalled an assembly at the school, which featured a video presentation of her as well as an administrator talking about all of her feats. “Watching myself on that screen, and everyone just sitting there, watching me.”

Is there something that would surprise people to learn about you, personally? “I used to be really shy. Now, I think I just got voted ‘best laugh’ at my school.”

Is there something that would surprise people to learn about you in regard to gymnastics? “You hear people say, ‘You perform how you practice.’ Well, I actually don’t. I haven’t practiced vault in the four years of high school gymnastics.” (Instead, she uses her warm-up prior to competition to perfect her timing.) “It’s a mental thing now. It’s like I can’t practice it.”

What is a goal, associated with your sport, that you would still like to accomplish? “Being on the University of Oregon’s stunt and gymnastics team. That’s my No. 1 priority right now, getting into that school and getting on that team.”

What is a goal, away from your sport, that you would like to accomplish? “I want to be a physical therapist (for famous people). I’ve had so many injuries. I think I’d be good at it.”

Do you have any advice to a younger gymnast? “To always go for what you want. In my case, even if you think you can’t do it, you really can. Just give it all you’ve got.”

Specifically, Duran wants to help her younger cousin, Sinclair Pittman: “I’m going to push her. She’s going to be the next me, hopefully (with a laugh). I’m going to push her even harder now that I’m not on the team. Gotta keep it in the family.

Most memorable moment: “I don’t have one besides winning state. I’ll always remember that.”

Who is your most influential coach? “Richard Samuels (who has given Duran private instruction and is the Fort Vancouver coach). I, personally, need a hard-pushing coach, one who is going to be strict with me. That’s what he did, but he wasn’t rude about it. He always pushed me.”

What is something about your sport that people do not understand? “It’s actually hard,” she said. (Really, we questioned. People don’t already know that?) “I hear from people all the time saying, ‘Oh, I can do that.’ Most people think it’s just flips and stuff. You gotta have the routine, the right timing for everything.”

What do you take away from this past season? “I feel I got a lot closer to the coaches and with other gymnasts from the other teams, too.”