GYM MAC Champions
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Courtesy: Ruth Judson

Magee Harnessing Power of Gold in Olympic Pursuit

Courtesy: Kristin Keirns, associate director of athletic media relations
Release: 04/09/2012
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KALAMAZOO, Mich.- In her first year as an assistant coach, Casey Jo Magee helped the Western Michigan gymnastics team post three of the top four scores in program history. Magee will now look to make history herself, as she continues to work towards earning a spot on the U.S. National Team, with hopes of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics this summer.

Magee more than left her mark at the University of Arkansas, where she competed collegiately from 2007 through 2010, helping the Razorbacks to a fifth place finish nationally in 2009. Just a few highlights from her impressive resume are eight All-American nods, including four as a first-teamer as a senior in 2010, 71 individual event titles and numerous school records.

A native of Eugene, Ore., Magee got her first taste of coaching during the 2011 season, serving as a student assistant coach at Arkansas while completing her degree in kinesiology. While on staff, Arkansas would finish ninth in the nation, boasting four All-Americans. Degree in hand, Magee migrated to Texas the following summer to continue her own personal training.

Later that year, an opportunity to coach again presented itself, and Magee jumped at the chance to reunite with one of her former coaches, Dave Kuzara at Western Michigan. Kuzara was an assistant on the Razorback staff from 2007 to 2009, before taking the reigns at WMU prior to the 2010 season.

Magee admits, adjusting to becoming more vocal as an assistant coach at Western Michigan, versus her smaller role as a student assistant, took time to get used to. But as Kuzara will also attest to, Magee was also a part of the Bronco success, as this year's team finished runners-up in the Mid-American Conference regular season and placed third at the MAC Championships, totaling their best score ever at the conference meet with a 195.000.

"For the first couple of weeks, I was learning the girls and their personalities," Magee said. "Being similar in age, I was getting used to the role of coaching college girls and getting comfortable, getting a feel for when I should say something, when I should point this or that out."

"I encouraged Casey to voice her opinion, and give the girls a different voice and a different perspective," commented Kuzara. "We had a great year, which is a tribute to the hard work of our team, but Casey definitely helped us get to that next level."

While Western Michigan was raising its standards, Magee was as well, as she continued her own training as a senior international elite gymnast. Making sure that the Broncos' season was the number one focus, Magee trained with Kuzara independently from the college team.

Her first competition in months, Magee got one step closer to making her Olympic dream a reality at the WOGA Classic this past February. As part of process to make the U.S. National team, gymnasts must meet qualifying scores at selected competitions or be one of few hand picked by the selection committee.

Needing a 53.000 or better as an all-arounder at the WOGA Classic, Magee totaled a 53.300, allowing her to move on to other qualifiers in May. Magee will be able to compete at the American Classic May 3-6, and the Secret U.S. Classic (formerly known as the CoverGirl Classic) May 26. Both meets are qualifying events for the 2012 Visa Championships, which is USA Gymnastics' national championships scheduled for June 7-10 in St. Louis, Missouri. Members of the U.S. National Team will be determined at the Visa Championships, and those who go on to make the team will compete for spots on the Olympic roster.

"Our whole objective at the WOGA in February was to get the score I needed, so we can relax and move on to the next step," Magee explained. "It was really my first time competing since last summer, but it couldn't have worked out better, as I was fortunate this winter not to have any conflicts with WMU's collegiate season."

"Casey is in a really good place going into these next couple months of training, leading up to May," Kuzara said. "Even when we were at the WOGA, I thought Casey had a much more mature approach about it. The key now is to keep moving forward. We are focusing on adding difficulty and being a little sharper."

As an all-arounder, Magee this time will need a 54.000 or better at the American Classic or Secret U.S. Classic to move on to the Visa Championships.

Through this process, settling in to her coaching role has helped Magee in her own pursuits.

"Right before I went up on balance beam at the WOGA, I thought about what I would tell our girls," Magee said referring to the WMU gymnasts. "I don't want to give them advice on something I'm not going to adhere to.

"I love being at Western Michigan and the team here has helped push me in my own training. They cheer me on and as much as I can help them, they really are a big support group for me as well. By far the best move for me was to come to WMU. I don't think I could be where I am at personally without being here."