Making the grade: Gymnasts soar
She’s a college athlete, a student and a receiver of the Academic All-WAC award.
Amanda Watamaniuk is more than just a gymnast on the USU team: She’s a top student in the athletic department, and so are all 15 of her teammates.
There may be a rumor floating around college campuses that student-athletes devote all of their time to their sport and consequently have little time for studies and homework.
The USU gymnastics team is a group of girls that consistently contradicts this rumor.
“Everyone I know this year has been trying really hard,” Watamaniuk said. “Coaches stress grades. We’re here for gymnastics, but we’re also here to go to school and we have to leave with something. We take getting good grades serious.”
The Academic All-WAC is an award given to student athletes who achieve a 3.0 GPA or higher and participate in at least 50 percent of the year’s contests.
A 3.0 wasn’t good enough for the gymnasts. They decided to raise the bar for themselves.
“The team sets a 3.5,” Richards said. “They understand they have to get good grades or they’ll get left behind. I think it’s difficult for them, but they know how to study.”
In addition to setting a team goal, the returning gymnasts offer support to the incoming freshman making the transition from high school to college.
Watamaniuk, a senior headed to physical therapy school next fall, said the upperclassmen helped her with tips and tricks when she was a freshman.
The freshman who come on to the team are required to complete six hours of study hall each week.
“We kind of get in the habit of studying every night,” sophomore Sarah Landes said. “It gets harder later on. You’re not required to do it. It takes a lot of self-discipline.”
Landes is double-majoring in exercise science and business marketing and holds a cumulative GPA of 3.8.
In addition to her outstanding performance in academics, Landes is also a top performer for the team and consistently places in the all-around competitions.
Although the girls travel for meets, they use much of their in-between time to study. They learned to study during every available time they had — on the bus, in the hotel rooms and late at night after practice.
Though it may be a struggle to keep up their good grades, head coach Jeff Richards knows the strict level of discipline has been ingrained in the girls from early on.
“You take a fall in gymnastics, it’s not just a little fall,” Richards said. “You’re hitting the equipment hard and you’re hurt — it’s not for the weak. They know the determination it takes. It’s in them, the drive is there. They’ve been able to figure that out at a young age. It carries over to their academics.”
But with diligence and success, sacrifices have to be made.
Because of the time spent studying, practicing and being on the road for competitions, the girls have little free time for a social life.
Watamaniuk said she stays home on Friday nights to complete her homework and saves Saturday for a day to see her friends.
“You just try to squeeze it in there,” Watamaniuk said. “That’s kind of hard your freshman year. You don’t get as much of a social life as regular college students. It comes down to your priorities.”
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