The meet wasn’t for the championship. There was no title on the line, no singular glory to be achieved.
For two lifetime gymnasts, it should have been another regular season home match-up. But for Ann Stockwell and Krystine Jacobsen, the Feb. 27 meet against BYU was the most important of their lives.
That night, the Boise State gymnastics team honored both Stockwell and Jacobsen’s mothers before the meet. They honored their battle with breast cancer by having the entire team and the audience dressed in pink to honor those affected by breast cancer.
The meet served as the culmination of their efforts to succeed, despite their mothers’ struggles.
In June 2014, freshman Ann Stockwell was getting ready for one of the biggest moments of her life—her high school graduation. Then it happened. Her mom, Mary Stockwell, was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.
“I never thought it would be my mom,” Stockwell said. “You always hear the stories about other people.”
A native of Newcastle, California, Stockwell was set to leave for Boise State where she had been offered a scholarship.
Suddenly she wasn’t so sure of her future.
“I felt alone and was doubting everything,” Stockwell said. “I had to take some time by myself to just process it all.”
With her mom’s encouragement, Stockwell left for Boise State to pursue her dream of competing in collegiate gymnastics.
The decision proved to be a difficult one, and Stockwell struggled with her choice.
When Stockwell reached out for support from her fellow teammates, junior Krystine Jacobsen emerged.
“To have her there for me like that made it so much easier for me to deal with everything I was going through,” Stockwell said.
As the months went by and the season got underway, their friendship continued to improve—as did Stockwell’s mother. Mary had undergone successful chemotherapy and surgery.
Stockwell and Jacobsen were both having tremendous seasons and aided in helping their team vault to No. 12 in the nation.
However, the period of good fortune was about to end.
In February 2015, Jacobsen got the devastating news that her mom, Judy Jacobsen, had also been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My mom found out a week before I knew and didn’t tell me because she knew I had a meet coming up,” Jacobsen said. “I was wondering, ‘How far along is she?’ and ‘Is she going to be OK?’ Tears started running down my face because I started thinking about life without my mom.”
Just like Stockwell eight months before, Jacobsen was faced with a decision.
“When I found out, there was a lot of uncertainty for me and I had that doubt creep in,” Jacobsen said. “My first thought was I wanted to go home and support her.”
In the end she decided the team was where she needed to be.
“This is what my mom wants for me. She wants me here with my team because she knows this is what I want to do,” Jacobsen said. “After all of that you turn around and you realize this could be worse than what it is. You learn to fight through it and move on.”
Stockwell, upon learning the news, was there for Jacobsen every step of the way.
“I told her my viewpoint and my experiences of what I had gone through,” Stockwell said. “I wish I would have had someone who had gone through something like this when it happened to me. I wanted to make sure that she had that from me.”
The two of them talk every day and have formed a lifelong friendship.
“We want to make the other aware that they are always on our mind,” Jacobsen said. “That is the best part to have someone there for you anytime and completely understands what you are going through.”
Stockwell’s mother is continuing treatment in Boise, where she moved to be closer to her daughter. The results are promising.
Jacobsen’s mother had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery on March 23 in Virginia, where she lives. She received news that the cancer is not in her lymph nodes and is already off pain medication.
While both remain optimistic, Jacobsen and Stockwell contend daily with the lingering fear.
“There is always that small chance that it could come back and that scares me to death,” Stockwell said. “I would hate for her to have to go through all of this all over again.”
Both Stockwell and Jacobsen have learned not to dwell on what they can’t control.
“I have just taken all of this day by day,” Jacobsen said. “I have had to push through every emotion but I am here today and have come so far.”
On the night their mothers were honored Jacobsen posted a score of 9.875 on the uneven bars, the second highest of her career, and led the team on the balance beam with a 9.875, which tied her career high.
Stockwell posted a career best 9.925 on vault.
“Everything that I have pushed through and all the hard work that I have put in finally fell into place,” Stockwell said. “It was just the perfect performance to have for my mom and my team.”
On March 21 Stockwell and Jacobsen helped the Broncos win the Mountain Rim Conference championship for the first time in school history.
Jacobsen earned All-MRGC first team in uneven bars and second team in balance beam. Stockwell earned All-MRGC first team vault.
“They are both so inspiring,” co-head coach Tina Bird said. “They are carrying the load that every other kid is carrying as a student-athlete but have the burden of these family issues on them. For them not to crack but to be amazing at every meet is incredible.”
The duo, along with the rest of the team, are now preparing for the NCAA Regionals which take place on April 4. The two are hoping to help the team make history by qualifying for the NCAA Nationals for the first time in program history.
“It would be incredibly overwhelming if it happened,” Stockwell said. “To go from the worst day of my life to the best day of my life would be amazing. It would make all that hard work and emotional struggles worth it.”
Whatever happens, Stockwell and Jacobsen know they can get through anything and are much stronger than ever before.
“I have learned through all of this that nothing can hold you back if you just follow your heart and push through everything that may come your way,” Jacobsen said.