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Rick Parker, USU Athletic Media Relations
Hayley Sanzotti competes on floor against BYU during the 2016 season.

Hayley Sanzotti admits she wasn’t dead set on returning to Utah State for her fifth year.

The native of Wheaton, Illinois, sat out her sophomore season in 2014 after dislocating her right elbow prior to the Aggies’ first meet at Iowa. Sanzotti was called a senior in 2016 because she was unsure of using the redshirt season and returning for one more year.

“I wasn’t 100 percent set on staying for my fifth year until after our season was done last year,” Sanzotti said. “I told myself that if my body held up and if I could figure out a way to add in more schooling, and pretty much figure everything else out, that I would stay for my fifth year because it’s not like you can do gymnastics after college.”

Sanzotti did return, and fourth-year Utah State head coach Nadalie Walsh couldn’t be happier with that decision.

“Having Hayley a second year just means a lot because I don’t think athletes stay for a fifth year unless they’re happy and they know they can get more out of their careers,” Walsh said. “For her to stay is just a huge compliment to the program, to the university, to the staff and to the team. She’s a young woman of few words, but her actions speak really loud and her gymnastics are even louder.”

Sanzotti has made her mark on the program. After all, she has two of the best beam averages in school history with a 9.795 set in 2016 to rank third and a 9.743 set in 2015 to rank ninth, while her floor average of 9.780 set in 2016 ranks 18th all-time in school history.

In a home meet against Southern Utah in 2016, Sanzotti recorded a career-high 9.900 on beam, which is tied for 11th in school history. Later that season, she earned second-team all-Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference honors after tying for fifth on beam (9.825) at the league championships.

“It’s had a lot of ups and downs,” Sanzotti said of her Aggie career. “I’ve had to battle through injuries and coaching changes, but it’s been a successful career and I’ve learned a lot, and have definitely grown as a gymnast and as a person. I’ve had a great time at Utah State.”

Through the first eight meets of the 2017 campaign, Sanzotti, who is a beam and floor specialist for the Aggies, has finished in the top three on four separate occasions. She captured the beam title with a 9.800 at BYU on Jan. 20.

“Three words sum up Hayley,” Walsh said. “She’s reliable, dependable and mature. Those are three words that just really encompass her. Her gymnastics has always been outstanding, but as far as consistency, you can put money on her that she’s going to do what needs to be done, and if she needs to, she’ll even step up and shift the atmosphere. When I say that, she’ll get the rest of the team to watch her do her beam routine and then everybody is re-engaged if we had any sort of downfall.”

Sanzotti competed on both beam and floor at the 2015 and 2016 NCAA Regional Championships and holds career highs of 9.775 on vault, 9.700 on bars, 9.900 on beam, 9.875 on floor and 38.875 in the all-around.

One of her most memorable moments as an Aggie came during the 2015 season, when Utah State defeated BYU in Provo for the first time since 1999 – snapping the Cougars’ 16-meet home winning streak over USU

“I was part of that beam lineup and it was really fun to have that experience,” Sanzotti said.

In that dual-meet win over BYU, Utah State recorded a 49.275 on beam, which ranks third all-time in school history. Sanzotti tied for third on the event with a 9.850.

What is her favorite event to compete in?

“I would probably say floor just because you get to show a lot of personality and it’s a lot of fun to perform,” Sanzotti said.

Sanzotti doesn’t just excel in gymnastics for Utah State, though. She is also an excellent student, as evidenced by the fact she is a three-time academic all-WAC/MRGC honoree and four-time USU Whitesides Scholar-Athlete recipient.

Sanzotti is majoring in cellular molecular biology and working on a minor in chemistry. She has a cumulative grade point average of 3.87 and has had four 4.0 semesters. The lowest grade she has ever received is a B.

“Many of the times I have seen her when I was in the training room, she had notecards or study guides and was studying while receiving treatment,” said Utah State Academic Coordinator Steph Ingalls, who works with the gymnastics program.

What does Sanzotti do to create balance in her life to where she can excel in everything she does?

“It’s taken a lot of practice, like figuring out what works your freshman year,” she said. “I figured out what I needed to do for each class and how much time I needed to spend with each class. With some of the harder classes, I definitely spend a lot of time in doing homework when we travel, but it’s worked out.”

It certainly has.

When Sanzotti isn’t studying or doing gymnastics, she enjoys biking – when the weather allows it – reading and playing the piano.

“A lot of people don’t know that I play the piano,” Sanzotti said. “My dad’s side of the family is heavily into music, so I started taking lessons when I was in elementary school, but I had to stop in high school because I didn’t have enough time with practicing. But, I still play every time I go home. I love playing, but I just don’t have a piano out here so I can’t play.”

Sanzotti prefers playing classical music but enjoys listening to country music.

The daughter of Bryan and Pam Sanzotti is on track to graduate this spring. She hopes to use her degree to land a job in forensic science and work in a lab.

How does Sanzotti want Aggie fans to remember her by?

“I would say being sassy in my routines and being fun to watch,” Sanzotti said.