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    TIM PEELER: Self-Confidence Boosts Gymnast Lee's Senior Season


    RALEIGH, N.C. Kelsey Lee can thank her iPod and hip-hop artist Rick Ross for helping her win the first all-conference honors of her four-year gymnastics career at NC State.

    Had it not been for the tiny device, playing Ross’ songs “Push It” and “I’m Bad” from his Port of Miami album, Lee might not have calmed her nerves to complete her most productive season with the Wolfpack. Lee admits that she is a tightly wound bundle of nerves before every competition.

    “I’m a nervous kid,” she said. “I get especially nervous being in front of large crowds like we have had at times this year. I get so worked up because I don’t want to let my teammates or myself down. I have very high expectations.


    “But I have found a way to try to relax myself.”


    Basically, Lee tunes everyone out, and turns up the music.


    “I try to just focus on myself and on my team, and think about what we need to do to be successful,” Lee said. “Usually when I don’t have my iPod on, I am thinking about, Oh, am I going to miss my beam routine?’ or Am I going to make my bar routine?’ It just calms me down a lot.”


    The formula has apparently worked for Lee, one of three seniors who are regular starters and will help lead the Wolfpack into next weekend’s NCAA Southeast Regional in Gainesville, Fla. Last weekend, the senior from Owings Mills, Md., earned the first All-East Atlantic Gymnastics League honors of her career. She was first-team on the bars and in the all-around and second-team on the vault and floor routine.


    Wolfpack gymnastics coach Mark Stevenson says Lee has been successful, not because she has tuned everyone else out, but because, after three years, she has turned up her confidence.


    “It’s pretty simple, really,” Stevenson said. “She believes in herself. She didn’t before.


    “You can see it in her eyes that she is going to get the job done. She has done a great job for us so far this year.”


    In fact, Stevenson says all three members of the Wolfpack’s accomplished senior class came to NC State from club gymnastic backgrounds that planted seeds of doubt when they arrived to compete on the collegiate level.


    “They were all talented gymnasts, but they were not consistent gymnasts,” Stevenson said. “One of the things they had to learn over the last three years is that they were better than they thought they were. They had to realize that they can do the bigger skills and they can do them successfully.


    “You have to have faith in yourself.”


    For Lee, that meant facing her fears of not living up to her own expectations or letting down her teammates, something she believes she did on multiple occasions her first three years here.


    “My freshman and sophomore year, I choked,” she said bluntly. “There was this one skill that I always messed up on because I let my nerves get the best of me. It was plain and simple: I choked. I don’t beat around the bush.”


    So she’s happy to lean on her musical therapy, to get those negative thoughts out of her head.


    “I really want to go out with a bang in my final season,” Lee said. “I have reason to have confidence in myself. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I have faith in what I am doing.”


    And that’s an even better remedy for nerves than hip-hop music.


    You may contact Tim Peeler at



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