Junior Meredith Hoover - Gettin¡¯ In Tune
Junior Meredith Hoover - Gettin' In Tune
By Loren Crispell, Director of Marketing for Olympic Sports
Feature story in Feb. 19 meet program
A freshman student¡¯s first few months on campus can be compared to the sounds that come from a piano players¡¯ first few lessons. Every now and then, the right notes are found and the result is a euphonic sound that that surprises the pianist and pleases those around. For the most part, however, the notes are disjointed, rarely connected and almost always lack a connection to one another, making that elusive harmony nearly impossible to find.
Incoming freshmen seek a similar harmony, one that allows them to fit comfortably in all of the many new environments they see, and one that promotes their personal growth and the growth of those around them. For junior co-captain Meredith Hoover, her first two and a half years- her ¡°gymnastics opus¡±- has been a work in progress, gaining small parts of that harmony from year to year.
Growing up in Dublin, Ohio, she was smack in the middle of Buckeye country and grew up watching the scarlet and grey compete on the football field and on the basketball court. Still, she felt a calling from a campus farther away, and landed in Happy Valley in the fall of 2002.
¡°Columbus is definitely Buckeye country and I grew up being a fan of all of their teams, but I knew I wanted to go away to school and find a great balance of high academic and athletic standards,¡± said Hoover. ¡°Penn State had all of that and once I took my visit here, I knew I wanted to be a Nittany Lion.¡±
Hoover became a factor in the lineup immediately and was thrown into the fire when her first collegiate performance came in front of over 7,000 fans in Athens, Ga., at the season-opening Super Six Challenge. Her consistency was instantly apparent, as was her impact on her teammates.
After a strong freshman season, Hoover was named a co-captain before her sophomore season, an honor rarely bestowed on an underclassmen, and one she shared with senior Kelly Streicher. The magnitude of such a title was not lost on Hoover.
¡°Being a captain at Penn State is a tremendous honor and privilege. It¡¯s a wonderful feeling to have the trust of my teammates and coaches to be a leader. Being in my position has been so enjoyable because implicit in being a captain is the need to know your teammates on personal levels. It¡¯s a lot of responsibility, but at the same time, it has helped me to mature and become a better person.¡±
Hoover has had great predecessors in the captain¡¯s role before her, and has a deep appreciation for what she learned from them.
¡°When I was a freshman, I got to watch and learn from Leslie Bair who was a co-captain at the time, and last year being a co-captain with Kelly was a great experience. I hope I can continue to inspire my teammates and instill a feeling of pride for Penn State in them, just as they did for me.¡±
In talking to Hoover, one of the most intense characteristics of the all-around competitor is her desire to bring those around her together, and to find that ¡°harmony,¡± where she is certain her team has one heartbeat and one goal.
¡°One of the best parts of my visit here was seeing how the team interacted among each other and how they just had that ¡®harmony.¡¯ When you see it, you want to be part of it right away, and then once you become part of it, you want it to continue as long as possible.¡±
Despite staring at the possibilities of being the first three-year captain in a long, long time, Hoover recognizes the importance of her teammates being leaders as well, even without the captain title next to their name.
¡°We have so many people who are outstanding leaders on our team, and it can be shown in many different ways. It doesn¡¯t take a ¡®C¡¯ on a jersey, or the word captain to get the job done. Anytime one of our teammates motivates another, they¡¯re taking on the role of a leader, and we have that happening in our gym at any given time. There is absolutely no way our team chemistry would be what it is if we didn¡¯t first have the flexibility to all be leaders and the confidence and inspiration to make each other stronger.¡±
An advertising major, Hoover has real and definite goals for her final fourteen months of competition, some of which include leading her team to a Big Ten championship and the Super Six championship at the close of the season. Perhaps more important, though, is her unspoken but brilliantly evident goal of keeping her teammates closer than ever before and helping each one of them individually.
¡°The challenge of communicating well with your teammates and coaches is one that I¡¯ve gotten better at, but is also one that is present every day. It¡¯s so much fun to build relationships with your teammates over time because those relationships allow you to improve your individual consistency and to build for the future together.¡±
Much like the artist of a fugue, where the composer introduces a tune (theme) while other voices enter at different times playing the same theme, Hoover is helping to craft her own masterpiece each weekend when Penn State takes the floor. The same routines occur each week, on the same pieces of equipment, but all in different voices, performed by different artists. The challenge of keeping those themes in tune is one that Meredith Hoover embraces, and is one that drives her to pursue excellence and harmony in all she does.