Ocoee's own Bailey Ferrer continues her passion for gymnastics at one of the nation's top programs.
Standing on the purple mats of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Bailey Ferrer takes a moment to soak everything in.
It’s the biggest moment of her young, collegiate career, but she approaches the uneven bars as she always has.
While teammate Sami Durante flies about on the bars for the LSU gymnastics team, Ferrer says a little prayer and chalks up. It’s a simple process, but it’s one that has never failed her.
“It’s more like autopilot, because I’ve done it for so long now, but I can’t second guess myself and I can’t try too hard,” Ferrer said. “I’ve learned I just kind of have to not think and just do — that’s my little thing, ‘Don’t think. Just do.’ Ever since I started that saying, I think it has helped me a lot, because if I just get in my head I’ll psych myself out, and then the outcome will not be what I want it to be.”
The outcome from her bar routine during the Baton Rouge regional on Saturday, April 6, didn’t disappoint. Ferrer picked up a score of 9.80 in an afternoon during which Ferrer and the Tigers finished first with a team score of 197.500 — advancing the Tigers to the NCAA Championships.
Although many know LSU for the football program, its gymnastics program has been the most consistent and dominant at the school for decades, so it’s no surprise that the Tigers would pick up their seventh consecutive regional title — 12th overall — and give Ferrer her first taste of NCAA success.
And after such a successful season, during which the Tigers claimed another SEC title, going into last weekend’s regional there was the belief that something good was coming.
“I think, not just myself, but my entire team is feeling super confident,” Ferrer said just before the regional. “We’ve been putting in all the work that we need to, and I think all of us — and myself — are definitely ready and I think we are definitely really excited.”
Although she already has begun finding success in her freshman year, the process of being ready for this kind of a moment is one that started long before Ferrer put on the purple and gold of LSU.
Growing up with a mom who coached gymnastics, avoiding the gymnastics bug was difficult. At age 7, Ferrer was playing softball, but she knew she would have to focus on one sport.
“When she was coaching, I was always in the gym, and I really fell in love with the sport,” Ferrer said. “I knew if I wanted to really be serious in gym, I didn’t have time for another sport, so I picked gym over softball.
“It wasn’t until we moved to Florida where I was like, ‘I think I want to do college and really want to pursue this,’ and really give my life to gym, honestly,” she said.
From there, Ferrer switched from Olympic to collegiate training, and it paid off early. Legendary LSU coach D-D Breaux offered her a scholarship when she was only in the eighth grade.
It was a moment of great excitement, even if the young Ferrer didn’t fully grasp what she had just been handed.
“I was 13, about to turn 14, I really didn’t know what I was committing to,” Ferrer said with a laugh. “But it was definitely the best decision I ever made.”
That excitement and nervousness of the unknown returned before she stepped foot on campus just before the school’s winter break last December.
“When she was coaching, I was always in the gym, and I really fell in love with the sport. I knew if I wanted to really be serious in gym, I didn’t have time for another sport..."
— Bailey Ferrer
She knew no one and had to learn the workout routines and program — while also juggling her duties as a student. It was also the first time that she had been away from home.
It was a big change for Ferrer, but she still had gymnastics as a constant comfort — although she didn’t see action until the third meet of the season against Auburn. In that meet, she wasn’t even expected to perform.
“I did not know until five minutes before I had to compete,” Ferrer said. “One of our seniors actually ended up tweaking her ankle, so they put me on floor. It was definitely nerve wracking, and it wasn’t my best routine I could put out there. But it was good for me to experience it, because it is so different than when I was in high school and doing JO (junior Olympics) gymnastics.”
Since that early meet in January, Ferrer has established herself as a trusty bars specialist for the Tigers, where she has reached new heights — hitting a score as high as 9.9 in a meet against Missouri.
Now Ferrer and the rest of the LSU gymnastics team will take the experience they have amassed through the year into the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s just another big moment for the freshman to take in and enjoy while she can.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” Ferrer said. “So every day, even in the hard days — in the gym or in school — I just remember how hard I had to work to get here and how incredible the opportunity is.”