Faith Rightmire is modest as she talks about her future.
Mohini Bhardwaj de Freitas, who has trained the Bend High senior since she was 7 years old, says do not let that humility fool you.
“She kind of flies under the radar, kind of quiet, maybe a little bit shy but not really,” says Bhardwaj de Freitas, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and owner of Oregon Olympic Athletic Gymnastics in Bend. “She’s always been an amazing competitor. She’s silent but deadly.”
Rightmire, USA Gymnastics’ 2019 Oregon state balance beam champion, has participated in gymnastics since she was 4, winning multiple state and regional championships. But she will compete in a different sport in college.
She has signed with the University of Oregon’s acrobatics and tumbling program.
“It was just an opportunity I had to take,” Rightmire says at the OOA gym as she takes a break from training for this weekend’s USA Gymnastics Level 9 Western Championships in Spokane, Washington — what figures to be her final gymnastics competition. “It’s exciting. It’s a new sport,” she says of acrobatics and tumbling. “No one really knows a lot about it. It’s different but it’s still kind of incorporating gymnastics.”
The National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association was founded in 2010 and held its first national championships in 2011. Keenyn Won, Oregon’s head coach, says the sport combines the skills of gymnastics and competition cheerleading.
“It’s a hybrid of acrobatic gymnastics and artistic gymnastics and then we have pulled the athletic aspects from cheer,” says Won, who comes from a competitive cheer background and was a member of the Ducks’ first acrobatics and tumbling team in 2009.
Athletes wear form-fitting numbered jerseys and shorts, much like volleyball players.
“The scoring is much like gymnastics,” Won says. “Each of our skills that we’re competing in have start values and on game day you’re just being judged on execution.”
Rightmire heard about acrobatics and tumbling from two friends who trained at OOA and are now freshmen with college programs — Camri Reinhart at Azusa Pacific in California, and Kyla Roberts at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.
The NCATA currently has 30 member schools. The Ducks have won four of nine NCATA national championships and placed second to Baylor this season on April 27 in Texas.
Rightmire says she initially wanted to compete in gymnastics in college, and even visited Seattle Pacific and Sacramento State to explore the gymnastics programs at those two universities.
But keeping her options open, Rightmire also reached out to Oregon and Azusa Pacific’s acrobatics and tumbling programs. Before her junior year of high school, she attended the Ducks’ three-day summer camp, staying on the Eugene campus.
“I took that as an opportunity to figure out if I wanted to do it,” says Rightmire, who after the camp began emailing with Oregon assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Jacqueline Jeffries. “She would send me a list of (tumbling) skills that she would want me to take a video of and I would take a video of those skills and send them to her. It was a whole process. Most of it I had done before and a lot of it was just connecting things, putting a bunch of tumbling passes together.”
After three to four months of sending videos, Rightmire was invited to the UO campus for an official visit.
“It was exciting because I was waiting for it,” Rightmire says. “I was really hoping that they were going to invite me on it because if they don’t that probably means you don’t have a chance of going there.”
Rightmire took her visit in early November. After touring the campus and watching practice, she met with Won, who offered Rightmire a spot on the team and a scholarship. She signed on Nov. 14 — National Signing Day.
Won says she likes to recruit from in state.
“We love that she’s from Oregon,” Won says. “The other good thing about Faith is the foundation of skills that she has. She has a great foundation in terms of strength and technique that she has learned throughout her gymnastics career that we saw really transitioning well into our sport here. She also meshed really well with our team dynamic. She checks off all the boxes.”
Rightmire has attended two of Oregon’s acrobatics and tumbling competitions at Matthew Knight Arena — the first in 2018 against Hawaii Pacific and then this past March versus Azusa Pacific.
“I can picture myself out there, for sure,” Rightmire says.
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, email@example.com