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Onetime Olympic Gymnastics Alternate Elizabeth Price Is Back In St. Louis, This Time For NCAA Championships

By Karen Price | April 14, 2017, 2:25 p.m. (ET)

Elizabeth Price competes on the balance beam at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team Trials at HP Pavilion on June 29, 2012 in San Jose, Calif.

 

Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis holds plenty of memories for Stanford gymnast Elizabeth Price.

It was where she competed in the elite national championships in 2012, both alongside and against a number of the athletes who will be back in the arena with her this weekend.

Now, however, they have gathered there for national glory of a different sort. Chaifetz Arena will play host this weekend to the National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships and Price, a Stanford junior, will compete on the uneven bars as she looks to add another NCAA national title to the vault championship she won two years ago.

“I’m here with a couple of people who also competed in the 2012 national championship, so it’s nice to have some familiarity,” she said. “There are a lot of great memories (at Chaifetz Arena), so being able to reflect back on that event is nice. It was one of the best meets of my career, so hopefully this weekend I’ll be able to add some new memories.”

Price would become just the second Stanford gymnast to win two individual NCAA titles. She competes beginning at 7 p.m. local time on Friday.

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By the time Price was in seventh grade her entire life rotated around gymnastics. In 2010, she was named to the U.S. junior national team. She transitioned to the senior team in 2012 at the age of 16. That June in St. Louis, she finished fifth in the all-around at the national championships, behind Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross.

Then in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials shortly thereafter, she did one better, finishing fourth.

When the Olympic team was announced, however, Price was not on it. She was named an alternate and traveled to London and trained with the team, even suffering a bruised heel in the process, but did not get a chance to compete.

In 2014, Price won two of the biggest competitions of her elite career, winning the all-around titles at the American Cup and the Pacific Rim Championships. Soon after, she announced that she was retiring from elite competition and began her career at Stanford.

As is often the case transitioning from elite gymnastics to college gymnastics, it required a bit of an adjustment. From spending less time in training and going to meets every week instead of every few months to adjusting to the strive for perfection and the perfect 10 in scoring, there are many differences.

At least one thing was the same, however.

“There’s a lot of adjustment, but the sport itself hadn’t changed,” she said. “It was still gymnastics, I still had the same mindset as I did as an elite athlete. I just had to shift focus to other things; for instance, making school a bigger priority as opposed to gymnastics taking up my entire time.”

In addition to her 2015 NCAA title on vault, Price’s college highlights include being named 2016 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year and 2015 Pac-12 Specialist of the Year, as well as earning five All-Pac-12 nods and six All-America honors.

Price has enjoyed the atmosphere of college gymnastics, and the fact that everything they do centers around the common goal of a team victory. One thing she said she’s most proud of as she’s progressed through her college career is her consistency.

“Really, going for perfection and the perfect 10, I’ve been able to be consistent hitting my best routines in competition and being able to maintain that throughout my career,” she said. “It’s about being able to fall back on all the practices and years you put into the sport and the skills you practice over and over.”

Although Stanford didn’t make it to the team championships, Price earned her place in this weekend’s nationals by becoming the 2017 Seattle Regional champion on bars. She has been ranked in the top five nationally on the apparatus all season.

Her plan on Friday is to approach it knowing she’s put in the work necessary to win.

“I’ve competed it many times this year and practiced it way more, and I know I’m capable of going out and hitting one of my best routines,” Price said. “I just have to stay calm and focused and pretend I’m back in practice doing the routine as opposed to putting pressure on myself. I know I’m capable of doing it.”

She’s also looking forward to seeing many of her former U.S. teammates. Whenever they are in the same place, she said, they always make it a point to catch up with one another.

“It’s pretty cool to see how we all started on the elite path and ended up in the same place, different teams but going through the same experience,” she said. “It’s great being part of a college team and pretty cool to see how we’ve all taken advantage of that opportunity and are able to come to the NCAA championships this weekend.”

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.