© John Cheng

By Nick McCarvel

SAN JOSE – Amelia Hundley knows what you’re thinking: She didn’t expect herself to do as well as she did at the P&G Gymnastics Championships in St. Louis, either.

“I went out there and did what I was training to do,” Hundley said Thursday ahead of the U.S. Olympic Trials in San Jose. “I think I was surprised as everyone else at how well I did, but it was a great experience for me.”

That great experience was a sixth place finish in the all-around, matching her best performance from 2014. It was redemption from the year prior, when she suffered an injury night one at nationals and was forced to withdraw.

The 18-year-old from Ohio has been having a things-are-coming-together sort of season. She has gained confidence with each passing week, taken the advice of her coach and trainer to heart and then just let it go – let herself enjoy the gymnastics.

“You get caught up in the stress and the fact that you want it so bad, but you have to take a second and take it all in,” said Hundley of staying in the moment. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do and it’s working.”

This fall, Hundley will head off to the University of Florida to compete as a Gator, but not before she sticks her neck out in the coming days in San Jose, an underdog for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

It’s a place she appreciates being in, however, and she feels as though her gymnastics have flourished away from the spotlight.

“There are different pressures for the top gymnasts versus what I’m facing,” she said. “For me, there is less pressure so I see that as a good advantage. I’m just taking it day-by-day and enjoying it.”

Part of that has been thanks to Mary Lee Tracy, her coach of over eight years at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, while another piece of the puzzle has been Betsy McNally, a trainer she began working with in November of 2014 that has strengthened her game in and out of the gym.

“She knows exactly what is good and what isn’t,” Hundley said of McNally. “Sometimes, I’m so hungry late at night after training and she’s explained all of that to me; she’s there 24/7. She’s become a close friend, too.”

Hundley can remember watching Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin during the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, dreaming of that being her one day, but not fully appreciating or understanding the work that went in to get to that place.

Now, she does.

“Now that I’m here, it feels amazing,” she said.

Her faith is a big part of that (“it helps me with my mental stability,” she explained) and Tracy standing by her through and through, which has made her stronger as a gymnast.

“She’s been there with me when I was at my lowest, deepest points, and she’s been there for the highs, too,” Hundley said.

One of those highs comes this weekend. For Hundley, what’s left is to go out and perform – and enjoy – at Olympic trials.

“As long as I go out and do what I did in St. Louis – perhaps a little better – then I’ll be more than happy with that,” she said. “We’re at Olympic Trials. It’s crazy. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I just want to take a second and realize it and then I want to have fun with it.”