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Within Her Grasp

Joanne Simon Tailele

June 2015 978-1512124453


Mari-Rae Sopper knew what she wanted to be since she was ten-years-old, when she watched Nadia Comãneci score that “perfect ten” at the Montreal Olympics. She wanted to be a professional gymnast. So she made a plan. Driven by excellence and determination, “Mari-Rae put Fremd on the map,” according to Larry Petrillo, her high school coach. She moved on to be a formidable opponent in college gymnastics at Iowa State University and an impressive defense attorney for the Navy JAG Corps. Within Her Grasp chronicles Mari-Rae’s journey to reach her dream while battling emotional issues that soared her to the skies and plunged her into the depths of despair, drove her to veer from her plan, but never from her dream.


Mari-Rae did not need an alarm or coffee to be up and peeking out the window of her friends' upscale Washington D.C. condo before dawn on this beautiful Tuesday Indian summer day. Not just up, but practically vibrating excitement. It was here. Now! The beginning of a new life, the life she had dreamed about since she was ten years old.    

Her new job as head women's gymnastics coach at the University of California Santa Barbara was waiting for her.

The day was September 11, 2001.