When I think of the word “gymnastics”, the first word that comes to my mind is “sacrifice”. In order to be a truly great gymnast, you have to sacrifice everything that you hold most dear in this world. I can safely say that because I moved away from my family, friends, and everyone that I loved my senior year of high school, in order to train at a gym where I could find the most success.
I am originally from Nashville, Tennessee, but moved to Knoxville, a three-hour drive, to train at a gym that had the equipment and gym space that I needed to feed my gymnastics ambitions. Although a three-hour drive doesn’t sound like the ultimate obstacle, I would go months without seeing my family or friends from home. I sacrificed all of that to chase my dream of becoming a collegiate gymnast. To pursue this beautiful, wonderful sport that has been a part of my life for 15 years.
In the last decade and a half, I have trained over 10,000 hours and pushed myself each and every day. Always with one goal in mind-to become an NCAA gymnast. One of the happiest days of my life was May 1, 2018, when I committed to UIC and joined their gymnastics program. I couldn’t wait to leave my mark on UIC Gymnastics. Every morning I got up, either for early morning practice or to go to class, I was driven to excel in both the gym and the classroom. I wanted to succeed in each area more than anything in this world. All of my hard work and all of my sacrifices over the last 15 years finally started to pay off.
But then, I found out that this will likely be my last season. That I would only be able to compete as an NCAA gymnast for a single year. My heart was broken. Out of nowhere, I felt like everything that I sacrificed was worth nothing at the end of the day. I couldn’t help but feel "cheated" as if someone had stolen my dreams. I was so tantalizingly close to getting the student-athlete experience I had dedicated so much to. The decision doesn't change how I feel though. Being a UIC gymnast still means everything to me and it is so unbelievably gratifying to wear the UIC Flame on my chest. And I continue to wear it with my head held high. Because let me tell you, I have sacrificed too many hours and too many years of my life to be sent away without making an impact on this team. I'm not going anywhere.
FanWord is embarking on a series of stories from UIC’s current team members and other folks whose lives have been positively, and irrevocably, impacted by UIC Gymnastics. As you read what UIC Gymnastics has accomplished and the lives it has touched, I hope you will understand the need for these programs to continue into the future.
For more stories on this series, click here.