There are two truths to understanding Nicole Rozsa, a three-sport star at Cuyahoga Falls High School.
The first, that she’s just about always wearing something purple (for this, her friends say she needs a purple intervention). The second, that she just about never stops moving, training or practicing (for this, her friends call her crazy).
But Rozsa, a senior, keeps going, keeps working with coaches, keeps improving. She’s already a state placer in three sports (four if you count indoor track, though at most schools it’s a club sport). She took 21st at the state diving meet last year, placed 16th at the gymnastics meet in the vault and was fifth at the state track meet in the pole vault with a personal best of 11 feet, 9 inches (she also took fourth as a sophomore).
Her weekly schedule to accommodate all of that (she’s also on several club teams for the sports in which she participates) is dizzying to hear, let alone live.
On Mondays, Rozsa lifts weights (mostly for gymnastics), has club gymnastics in Twinsburg and then diving practice at the University of Akron. On Tuesdays, she has high school gymnastics, diving at UA again and track clinics at night, also at UA.
Wednesdays are the iffy days, which might have another lifting session and then a gymnastics or diving meet. Thursdays are for club gymnastics and whatever meet is that night. Fridays are for meets as well, and if not, she lifts and has high school gymnastics practice.
Saturdays have either a diving meet or club gymnastics, and Sundays have pole vaulting in Orrville and then a family dinner (sometimes the only chance they get during the week) at night.
“It almost bothers me — actually it does bother me when I don’t do anything,” Rozsa said. “On holidays, it’s nice to relax but I get so irritated sitting still because I’m so used to moving around and staying busy. And I love what I do. It makes me happy and I enjoy doing it.”
Support from family
To make it all happen, Rozsa is often still writing a paper or studying for a test into the early hours of the morning. The family minivan has racked up 99,000 miles and it’s only 4 years old. Her mother, Debbie, says she’s been known to bake chicken at 1 in the afternoon to have it ready for when Rozsa comes home from school so she’s able to get a bite in before heading off to a practice or two.
Along with some very understanding and flexible coaches and athletic directors (one time Cuyahoga Falls and Stow changed the timing of a Senior Night celebration until after a meet so that Rozsa could get her dives in and then make a gymnastics meet scheduled for the same time, which she did with wet hair), her family has been with her every step of the way.
It started when she was 3 years old and wanting to join her older sister by a year, Stephanie, in gymnastics. They had to wait a year due to an age requirement (Debbie was afraid Stephanie might get jealous, you see). But since then, Stephanie and Nicole acted as a yin-and-yang complement to one another, pushing each other each step of the way.
They both were a part of the gymnastics team when current coach Jessica Pocci took over the program. In those three years, the Rozsa sisters have helped transform Falls gymnastics from essentially having a starter program that was struggling to do anything into a district meet contender this year and back-to-back Northeast Ohio Conference River Division meet champions. Nicole was named conference MVP as a junior, and this year is a team captain.
“I would say Nicole and her sister have been highly important to the elevation of the gymnastics team,” Pocci said. “At practice, she’s very open to suggestion from me and she’s a very good leader. She takes her captain role very seriously and she’s kept the other girls on track and motivated.”
Stephanie, now at Ohio Wesleyan, was always the competitive one. Nicole was, and still is, laid back by default, which seems jarring considering how active and talented she is in each sport. Sports haven’t been life or death, they’ve been an avenue for escape and positivity.
“Every sport has taught me so much,” Rozsa said. “One, it takes my mind off things. When I’m stressed with school, it helps. And gymnastics have taught me to be disciplined and some manners.”
Rozsa’s first love was gymnastics. But when she started growing taller in seventh grade, she and her family knew it wouldn’t last. She’s now 5-foot-8, always the tallest at gymnastics meets (she has to contort her body to fit through the uneven bars as she swings from one to the other).
Knowing gymnastics was only alive for the short-run, she added pole vaulting and diving, the two sports that today are garnering scholarship offers. Currently, Rozsa’s looking at Ohio Wesleyan and Western Michigan for track and Bowling Green for diving and a possible major in communications.
For now, the goal is to again make the state meets in all three sports. Her biggest obstacle might not be any one competitor, but the schedule instead. The state diving meet and district gymnastics meet are both scheduled for the morning of Feb. 22. Rozsa is hoping to get a couple dives in Canton, make the first cut and race to the West Geauga High School to compete in that as well — and possibly push that minivan over 100,000 miles. In gymnastics, she’s already qualified for the district meet in all four events (beam, vault, bars, floor) and the all-around.
And, it’s likely her friends will again call her crazy while she’s bouncing around from event to event and meet to meet (she’ll probably be wearing purple at some point during those days, too). But it’s always better than sitting still.
“I don't think a lot of people understand what I do, honestly,” she said. “I just love it and I’ve learned a lot from it all.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.