Sorry football players, hockey players and wrestlers, the toughest athletes may be gymnasts.
Few are tougher than Andover senior Rachel Mattison, who last winter came back from a scary concussion when she collided with another gymnast while on the trampoline.
Mattison holds four school records. The Mattison clan is into records. Her father, Jim, holds the Worcester State pole vault record and her brother is an up-and-coming musician.
Rachel took time out to discuss her two brushes with greatness (Mark Wahlberg! Kent Boyd!), her passion for editing videos and the perils of peer pressure in this week's Around the Horn.
How is your season going? "Excellent. It's been my best season in my high school career, which is very exciting."
What's your favorite athletic achievement? "We have an MVC championship every year. I tied for first in the all-around. I was just a little sophomore. I wasn't expecting anything. The year after I won it again."
Give me your best Coach Vadala story? "I've known the Vadala family through Interstate Gymnastics even before high school. There are four Vadalas, all girls. Leeann and I are really good friends. High school came, and I thought, 'Oh, boy, I'm going to meet the older sisters (head coach Kristen and assistant Tracy). She (Kristen) is so animated and driven. She's such a good coach. After a meet she goes home and looks at routines, how can we do better. It's inspirational."
Gymnastics is a tough sport. Have you had a lot of injuries? "People don't realize it. It's graceful, it doesn't look too tough. But on bars you're falling 10 feet from the ground. On top of it, you're doing a skill like a flipping skill. Vaulting when you land, I think I saw it on a Snapple bottle, (the force is) like six times your weight. I've had so many injuries. Last year I had a concussion. I collided with another gymnast on the trampoline. It was just a freak accident. We hit heads. I was out two weeks. But I went back a little too early. I had headaches for like a month. People had to remind me, it's a head injury."
Do you have any siblings? "My older brother, Jake, plays football at Worcester State, and my younger brother, Jesse, he's a freshman and he's doing track and did freshman football."
Are you from an athletic family? "My dad, Jim, was a track star at Chelmsford. I think he did hockey and track at Worcester State. (Editor's note: He still holds the Worcester State pole vault record with a 14-0 in 1976)."
Do you work? "I coach gymnastics at the Andover-North Andover YMCA. I love it. I have an older group. It's so fun. I push them past their limits."
Do you have any college plans? "I applied to study physical therapy at six schools. I've heard back from two, University of New England and URI, and I got into both."
Will you do college gymnastics? "That's the question. I like every event but balance beam, where I've had my fair share of frustrations. I'd love to compete in bars and vault. I don't really know. I have two top schools, Ithaca and Springfield, that might be in my future. I think it will be. I can't picture it ending."
What is your pet peeve? "I hate when people put on their high beams behind me. I'm not going to go any faster!"
What is the most embarrassing song you have in your iPod? "'Hakuna Matata' from 'The Lion King.'"
Who is your dream date? "'Supernatural's' Jensen Ackles."
How many Facebook friends do you have. Anybody famous? "I think 700. My Facebook picture is with Kent Boyd from 'So You Think You Can Dance.' They had a tour, my friend's mom (Kathy Marble), got me tickets when they were in Boston. Me and my friend (Mackenzie Arndt, Central Catholic gymnast) we hung around. We had no idea where to go. It was at Agganis Arena (at Boston University). We looked really confused. A guy showed us where to go. It was freezing. It was an hour and a half wait. We met the whole cast."
Best advice you ever received? "My mother always says, 'Should have and I wish I had are useless words.' I just live in the moment."
What's your nickname? "My coach calls me Rachy."
What is something people might not know about you? "I like to edit videos. I ended up doing our banquet video. My brother gave me a program. I made all the gymnastics moves go to the music."
What is the most recent song you've downloaded? "'No Hands.'"
What grade would you give the president? "I'm not into politics."
What's the biggest challenge facing teenagers today? "Peer pressure. A couple examples like drinking and drugs I feel people are doing stuff they don't want to do because their friends do it. It bugs me."
If you were named principal, what's the first thing you'd do? "Open campus. Who doesn't want to go to lunch and grab a bagel?"
Group or singer: Linkin Park
Song: "No Hands" by Waka Flocka
Website: "Casttv.com." I watch a lot of TV shows.
Actor/actress: Mark Wahlberg. I actually met him. He was at my church, St. Robert's Bellarmine (while filming "The Fighter"). I just went, "Oh, my God!"
Movie: "The Italian Job."
TV show: "Burn Notice."
Athlete: Shawn Johnson
Food: I love Milanos
Car: I like my car. A 2005 Rav-4. It's not too big and not too small.
Course in school: Anatomy and physiology with Mr. (Robert) Marx