The five-foot athlete is not only physically strong, but she has also shown incredible mental and emotional toughness through one of her hardest times.
Acrobatics & tumbling star Beth Magee has had a whirlwind of a year. Aside from COVID-19 cutting last year’s season short, she also faced the death of her former head coach, Colleen Kausrud, back in August. After a year of loss, the allied health major opened up about the joys, victories and excitement that have come with her last season as a Cougar.
After competing in gymnastics throughout her childhood and participating in competitive cheer for a year and a half, Magee decided she didn’t want to pursue either of these sports in college.. Yet, she wanted to be a college athlete. She discovered acrobatics & tumbling and started looking into the nation’s top schools for the sport and reaching out to coaches.
“I fell in love with it probably in the recruiting process when I saw how it was gonna be an opportunity to have my dream of being a college athlete but also challenge me in a new sport,” said Magee.
Magee has been competing at Azusa Pacific since her freshman year and is one of the team’s co-captains. Over the years, her love for the sport has only grown. “Every day I fall more and more in love with it,” she said.
Magee, who stands at five feet tall, competes in a position known as a “top” on her team. Similar to a flyer in cheerleading, as a top, Magee’s position involves her performing acrobatic maneuvers in mid-air, such as flips and twists. She claims her short stature is beneficial to her role on the team.
“Most college athletes wouldn’t have a lot of success if they were five feet tall,” she acknowledged. “Being smaller I feel like I’m almost aerodynamic.”
Magee’s height is not only beneficial to her role on the team, but she also celebrates the challenges that come along with her position.
“I really enjoy being a top and getting to fall from giant heights and having my teammates catch me,” she stated.
Tiny but mighty, there’s no doubt that Magee’s efforts and leadership helped the Cougars win against their long-time rival, the University of Oregon, on Thursday, March 2. The Ducks’ acrobatics & tumbling team were previously ranked as number one in the nation. Magee scored the best total for the Cougars in the duo tumbling pass event, scoring a 9.925.
The Cougars’ victory against Oregon was significant for multiple reasons, one of which was APU’s limited season and training time. Magee said her team had only trained for four or five weeks while Oregon had been training all semester. Magee went on to explain her team’s reaction and why this moment was meaningful to them.
“[We weren’t] shocked as in we didn’t think we could do it, but just shocked that it finally happened ‘cause we felt like we had been kind of riding at their heels for years and worthy of that victory. And so when it finally happened, we just felt really gratified and all the seniors were crying. I was sobbing,” she said.
Besides a long-awaited victory, Magee and her team also found a greater sense of meaning in the team’s win through the honoring of their late coach, Colleen Kausrud.
“We had a greater purpose with trying to honor our former coach, so that was probably the best way we could have repped her name,” Magee said.
Kausrud’s passing, which took place unexpectedly on Sunday, August 30, 2020, was one of the hardest things Magee said she had ever experienced.
“It was so unexpected, and she was such a mentor,” said Magee. “It set me back in every aspect of my life just from shock and grief … It was really hard, but I am thankful that I picked APU, [and] I’m thankful I got three years of learning from her.”
While the team has had a successful start to their season, they are staying humble and hardworking by remembering their former coach and striving to continue honoring her legacy.
“I would still say every single day there’s something that makes me miss her or makes me think of how life is different without her,” said Magee. “It’s like that for the whole team. We’re all just trying to honor her but also allow ourselves to be sad that she can’t be with us in some of these moments.”
The team is currently led by Kara Willard, the team’s former assistant coach. Magee stated that Willard is not only an incredible coach and mentor, but she also understands what the team is going through.
“She also misses coach, we all do. I feel lucky that we have someone on our staff that can relate to that but also drive us to continue [Kausrud’s] legacy by continuing her coaching expectations,” said Magee.
Although Magee, Coach Willard and the rest of the acrobatics & tumbling team continue to grieve the loss of Kausrud, they are also celebrating major victories for the program.
Not only did the team celebrate a defeat over Oregon for the first time since 2014, but they were also ranked the number one team in the country this past week by the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association (NCATA) for the second time in program history. Even though the team is celebrating their achievement, Magee continues to emphasize the importance of hard work throughout the remainder of the season.
“I would still consider us the underdogs. If anything we feel like we have to prove it, prove that we are deserving of it,” Magee said, “As a group, we never settle. So, our goal I think is to continue that momentum and to continue the potential that we have now especially more than ever. That national title is so close,” Magee said.
Moving forward, the co-captain is confident in her team’s competitive spirit and their willingness to put in the blood, sweat and tears to stay on top.
“I really see the drive at practice and the mental toughness of not giving up when we’re in pain or not giving up when things aren’t working out, knowing that we have a bigger purpose this year, and we have so much potential,” she said.
The team’s previous meet took place on Saturday, as the Cougars conquered Arizona Christain University for the second time this season after a 282.765-265.445 advantage. APU will head to Waco, Texas next to compete in the National Championships, which is scheduled to take place April 22-24.
This tournament will be special for Magee, a Texas native, because it will be her final competition, and her family will get to watch her one last time.
Reflecting on her time in the program, Magee said she will always cherish the memories of countless hours spent with her team over the past four years. She also shared some valuable advice received from Kausrud.
“Coach Colleen always said [that] you’re not always going to like each other, but you’re always going to love each other. I think about that in all of my relationships,” Magee stated. “I might not always like the person sitting across from me, but it’s really important to love them and remember what God loves about them.”
Magee plans to pursue a doctorate in occupational therapy at the University of Washington in St. Louis this coming fall. Although she’s disappointed to be leaving acrobatics & tumbling, she is excited about her next step and is confident in the Lord’s plan for her.
“I’m really going to miss this sport and I’m really going to miss being an athlete, but I know that it’s right,” Magee said.
As the Cougars continue on in their season, Magee is confident in their future success. “This is our year. We are so excited.”