Tiana Montell’s trademark has been her consistency for the UC Davis women’s gymnastics team, scoring high points and putting herself in line for another Outstanding Contribution award.
That’s a team honor the Aggies give to four of their gymnasts, who are a package of being Most Valuable, Most Improved and Most Outstanding.
The 2011 St. Joseph graduate has already pocketed two of those awards. In 2012, she became the second freshman in school history to qualify for the NCAA Regionals. She was also the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation all-around champion and all-conference in all-around. As a sophomore last season, Montell was All-MPSF on the vault and beam.
Through three meets in her junior year, Montell has averaged a team-high 9.717 points on the beam and 9.700 on the floor, second-best for the Aggies, who host a four-team meet on Sunday, competing against Stanford, Utah State and San Jose State.
She did her club work at Hilo’s Pantheon Gymnastics and credits coaches Jerry and Patti Walkabout for steering her to compete in college gymnastics.
“They have been a huge influence on me and are my second parents,” Montell said. “They helped me achieve my goal of becoming a college gymnast. They never gave up on me even when I wanted to give up and I am so thankful for them.
“Not only have they influenced me in my gymnastics world, but also in everyday life. There are so many things I have learned from them that I couldn’t even count. For one, they always emphasized schoolwork before gymnastics. That is something I have stuck to even in college.”
Montell, the daughter of Edwin and Jody Montell, walked on at UC Davis, where she earned a scholarship for her junior and senior seasons. Her father specializes in gastroenterology while her mother is administrator of The Endoscopy Center.
Like her dad, Montell hopes to help others but in a different field. Her nongymnastics interest is the animal kingdom: She’s majoring in animal science and is looking to become a veterinarian.
“My parents have always supported me no matter what my decision was,” Montell said. “They would encourage me to do things they thought best but never forced anything upon me. I always wanted to make them proud and be just as successful as they are. So I never gave up and always did my best to accomplish my goals.
“I have such a soft spot for any kind of animal. I would have adopted all the dogs at the Humane Society if my parents had let me. But I am really interested in animal medicine. With my dad being a doctor, I grew up knowing a little about the medical field and combined with my love for animals, becoming a vet has always been my dream.”
The full-time student gave a hearty laugh when asked what she does in her precious spare time.
“Gymnastics is a hard sport and requires a significant amount of dedication,” she said. “But honestly, if you stick with it and push through all the hard times, it is so worth it. I am so glad I never gave up. College gymnastics is so much more fun than I could have ever imagined.
“What I love about gymnastics is the amazing feeling you get when you execute a skill exactly the way you want to in competition. We train so hard every day in the gym and do hundreds of repetitions of these skills. When you can go out in a competition and show everyone in the audience and the judges what you can do, and how hard you’ve been working it’s the best feeling ever.”