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.