USU gymnastics: seniors celebrate careers at conference championships

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, March 22 2013 4:25 p.m. MDT

“It wasn’t the best of situations, but I made the best of the situations I was put in,” Montoya said. “I put up with a lot of adversity, but it made me grow up and gave me a more positive outlook on everything. I really do believe that everything happens for a reason.”

Watamaniuk was quick to agree.

“In gymnastics, you’re going to get hurt. It’s inevitable just because of how the sport is. Coming back from those kind of things, you just learn that you have to have that perseverance and drive," she said. “You have to want to be here. You love the sport so much that you want to keep going. This is your team, your family and your home. The gym is where we live and what we’ve always known.”

Unable to compete, Watamaniuk has spent the year helping out around the gym, coaching and helping motivate her teammates. She decided it wasn’t worth it to dwell on the unfortunate side of the situation and would rather make the best of it.

“You just have to take it as it is and still be there for your teammates. After this, I still have the rest of my life. I have new things I’m going to be doing and I’m going to need my whole body for that,” she said. “You just have to look at the big picture. I may be done, but I can still be here to help motivate and cheer on my team.”

Richards said he has been impressed with what these girls have accomplished even with all the challenges they have experienced in their four years.

“It’s gymnastics. As much as we try and stay away from the injuries, they keep coming back. They’ve both worked and pushed through them very hard. They’re both very strong-willed individuals,” Richards said. “They worked hard and kept believing and kept pushing. They kept me believing sometimes. I’m very proud of what these two have done.”

Coming in as freshmen, these seniors felt like they not only had their expectations of college gymnastics met, but completely exceeded.

“I loved our freshman year. It was probably my favorite of all four years,” Montoya said. “I loved the team I came in to. We had a great captain and it became everything I wanted it to be and more. It motivated me for the next three years because I wanted to help the freshmen have the same experience I had. We were welcomed with open arms as freshmen to a very inviting team.”

Watamaniuk said her freshman season was great to finally get into the collegiate competition and see what it was all about.

“You kind of have a sense of what you’re getting into, but it just becomes more real and more tangible once you get here,” Watamaniuk said. “Freshman year was a blast. Everyone was just on the same page. We always had fun in the gym. I would do it all over again, it was so fun.”

Both gymnasts were quick to cite the 2010 WAC Championships at Cal State Fullerton as one of their favorite experiences throughout their time at Utah State.

“We hadn’t had the most successful season and were kind of struggling. We were seeded sixth in the conference. We just went in trying to have fun. It was the most fun I’ve ever had at a meet,” Montoya said. “It was the most entertaining meet I’ve ever been a part of. I couldn’t tell you one score I got. No one knew what they were scoring. Everyone hit that meet, I don’t think anyone fell and we ended up finishing third. We just went out and had a good time and it was awesome.”

Watamaniuk remembers hardly feeling like she was at a meet.

“All the hard work we’d put in to every meet and every day was finally paying off and we had the most fun with it. It’s crazy how that happens,” Watamaniuk said. “When you relax and just go out and have fun, that’s usually when you do your best.”

Unlike other sports where there is still potential for a continued career after college, or at the very least opportunities to just play for fun, gymnastics careers come to an end with the senior season.

“I remember my freshman year like it was yesterday, now here I am ready to graduate. It went by in a blink of an eye,” Montoya said. “This is it. I’m never going to do a beam routine again. I’m done doing a Yurchenko Full on vault.”

With an internship and graduate school lined up, Montoya and Watamaniuk are ready for whatever the future has to offer. They look forward to taking the lessons and experiences from being a student-athlete and applying them in life after college.

"No matter how hard it seems or how bad a certain day is, don’t give up. It’s worth it. There’s always something good you can take out of every bad situation. You just have to keep finding the silver lining in everything," Watamaniuk said. "The struggle is what makes the experience. It may be hard at the time, but it’s worth it."

Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.

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