Caitlin Cardoza's performance at the Jr. Olympic Skills National Finals in Chicago left her a nervous wreck throughout lunch as she awaited the official results. The artificial turf that had been laid over a basketball court was slippery, making it difficult to execute precise turns, starts and stops, and she felt as though she'd attacked the drill too slowly.
You can imagine her surprise when, after a jitter-filled lunch, it was announced that her time in the 12-to-13-year-old girls division soccer competition had earned her the gold medal.
We had lunch before they announced the winners, and I was really nervous the whole time because I thought I did really bad, explained Caitlin, a freshman at Heritage High School. For some reason, I was still nervous (even after the gold medal was announced). I didn't understand that I'd won even though they announced the bronze and the silver first, so I knew I was going to get it, but it didn't really hit me until I actually stood on the podium and she was putting the medals around the necks of the other girls.
The soccer skill competition was a timed drill in which each player was asked to score three balls from 30 yards out in the fastest possible time, with penalties issued for missed shots. Officials released the contestants' finishing order; not the final scores.
This was Caitlin's first experience with the Jr. Olympics Skills Competition, and because the competition is only open to kids 13 and under, would be her last. But she felt good knowing that she made the most of that one shot at Jr. Olympic Skills gold.
It's my first time and my last time, said Caitlin, who has been playing competitive soccer since she was 8. There's nothing you can do about it after you've performed I'm glad I got gold.
The talented, multi-sport athlete advanced though local and regional qualifiers to earn an invitation to Chicago for the National Finals, and nearly qualified to participate in the tennis competition as well.
She has considering playing tennis at Heritage this fall, but will first need to make sure that participating won't interfere with her commitment to her club soccer team, and she's eagerly anticipating playing soccer for the Patriots this winter.
I'll play wherever they need me, but I generally like offense better. You're closer to the net and I like the action and running after the ball and crossing, said Caitlin, who isn't sure what level she'll be playing at for the Patriots this fall, but would like to play against the toughest competition possible. I don't really know, since I don't know the other girls who are playing, but it would be nice if I could be higher up there.
Jr. Olympic Skills is a free national grassroots skills competition run by the United States Olympic Committee that provides boys and girls ages 8 to 13 the opportunity to showcase their athletic abilities in four individually scored sports contests: basketball, soccer, tennis, and track and field.
For more information about the Jr. Olympic Skills Competition, visit www.jrolympicskills.com.