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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Gymnast vaults into new arena

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

For most of her life, Tacia LaBatte has been toiling in the gym, working on routines and practicing long hours.

After toiling in anonymity, Tacia LaBatte says: "Ever since I started cheering, everyone is interested in talking to me."

University of Washington photo


If you know of any athletes deserving of recognition, give us their names, high schools and graduation years, colleges and sports. E-mail us at: homegrown@
or contact Leila Wai at 535-2457.

But only recently has the University of Washington senior been getting a lot of attention for it.

"I told my mom, ever since I started cheering, everyone is interested in talking to me," LaBatte said.

LaBatte, a 2000 Castle graduate, plays a dual role as a gymnast and cheerleader for Washington, which she said has been "really crazy."

"Once gymnastics starts, I won't be doing cheer as much, because (gymnastics) is obviously my priority," LaBatte said.

Usually she attends classes from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., then starts getting ready for gymnastics practice at 1 p.m. Gymnastics usually runs from 1:45 to 5:45 p.m., and she rushes to cheer practice, which runs from 5:30 to about 8:30 p.m.

"I'm lucky, because I'm almost done with school," said the communications major, who is also getting a minor in dance and is scheduled to graduate in June 2005. LaBatte is a two-time honorable mention selection to the Pac-10 All-Academic team for gymnastics.

LaBatte, who is at UW on a gymnastics scholarship, said she got involved with cheerleading because she lives with some of the people on the squad. She will also earn two credits, and said the extracurricular activities will look good on her resumé.

Her gymnastics coach, Bob Levesque, said he was OK with her involvement with cheerleading, "as long as it didn't interfere with gymnastics," he said.

So far, "it's been fine," he added.

It was a natural progression for LaBatte, who said her mother, Tani Rapp, and aunt, Musette Payton, were on cheerleading squads for Castle. LaBatte, who was on the Castle Dance Force, did one cheerleading competition her sophomore year in high school.

"My mom, even when she cheers for us in the audience, uses her cheer voice," LaBatte said. "I definitely had to work on it."

LaBatte said another aspect of cheerleading she had to work on was partner stunting, when a male cheerleader will lift his partner above his head.

"I'm so used to balancing myself, and when you partner stunt, you have to let them balance you," said LaBatte, who said because of her gymnastics background, she had an easy time learning how to do air stunts and basket tosses. "Everything else was pretty natural.

"I could do all the tumbling and that is a big part of it," she said. "I'm so used to being in front of crowds; it is what I've been doing all my life."

LaBatte, who was featured in an online article on the UW Web site, competes as an all-arounder for the Huskies, and was one of three Washington gymnasts to compete at the 2003 NCAA Championships.

"She's a hard worker and she's focused," Levesque said. "I knew in her heart that gymnastics came first."

So far this season, the Huskies have been cheering for two drastically different teams, the third-ranked women's volleyball team and the 1-9 football team.

"You always have to support the team," she said of the football team. "Win or lose, I'll always be a Husky."

She said she sees the handful of Hawai'i athletes competing at Washington, including track and field runner Lauran Dignam (Iolani), and football players Wilson Afoa (Saint Louis), Brandon Ala (Kamehameha), Joe Lobendahn (Saint Louis) and Donny Mateaki (Iolani).

"There's only so many Hawai'i kids in the athletic department," she said. "We always say hi. When I do have time, we get to talk."


• Toriano Taulougo (Kahuku 2004), a walk-on freshman, returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown with a minute left to clinch Utah State's 34-25 victory over New Mexico State Saturday.

Taulougo, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound defensive back, also had two tackles, including a sack, broke up a pass and recovered a fumble.

• Derek Turbin (Punahou 2002) made six tackles, broke up two passes and intercepted one as Occidental defeated Willamette, 28-14, in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs Saturday.

Linebacker David Marsh (Punahou 2002) also played well for Occidental, while receiver Ric Fukushima (Moanalua 2002) dislocated a shoulder.

Reach Leila Wai at lwai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2457.