Golden Gopher Gymnast Feature: Kayla Slechta

Go Gophers!
Kayla Slechta

Go Gophers!
Kayla Slechta
Go Gophers!

Jan. 16, 2013

Junior Kayla Slechta is one of Minnesota’s most experienced gymnasts, having been the lone member of the team to compete at the NCAA Championships in each of the past two years. Last year, she and teammate Dusti Russell both competed at Nationals, marking the first time since 2002 that more than one Minnesota gymnast earned spots at the NCAA Championships. A graduate of Shakopee High School who trained at Classic Gymnastics, Slechta scored a 39.025 in the all-around to finish 14th in her session. Slechta also excels in the classroom, where she’s working on a degree in Kinesiology. She was an Academic All-Big Ten in 2012, as well as being one of five Gopher women’s gymnasts to earn Scholastic All-America honors from the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women.

Slechta opened her 2013 season with flair last weekend, just missing a perfect 10.0 on vault versus Washington, and earning this week's Big Ten Event Specialist of the Week award. GopherSports.com recently asked Slechta about her experiences at Nationals, her goals for this season, and even about her superstitions and favorite books or movies.

You've now been to Nationals twice as an individual. Talk about those experiences.
A: Well, the first year I went to Nationals, I was completely naive. I had no idea what to expect because college Nationals is very different than club Nationals. However, I came out of that Nationals learning a lot, which gave me a huge edge going into Nationals the second year. I had a better understanding of what it took to be a competitor at Nationals, and I came out of it with even more knowledge than the first year. Now, I cannot wait to experience Nationals this year with my entire team!

Do you feel the Gophers have what it takes to qualify for Nationals as a team in 2013?
A: DEFINITELY! There is no doubt about that!

Do you approach meets differently now that you're an upperclassman?
A: I certainly go into the meets more relaxed and with a lot more confidence.

What are your personal goals for the upcoming season?
A: My personal goals for this season are to help the team win the Big Ten and to help the team qualify for Nationals by doing the best gymnastics that I can do. I also want to live in the moment and really enjoy each one because before I know it I will be a senior and competing in my last year of gymnastics.

What's been your most challenging class at the University of Minnesota? Do you have a favorite class/subject?
A: My most challenging class that I have taken so far would be Chemistry, and my favorite classes that I have taken are Human Anatomy and Sport and Exercise Psychology.

Do you have any superstitions or things that you do before/during every meet?
A: One weird habit that I have is that every time, right after I chalk up my grips, I have to draw vertical lines onto my freshly chalked up grips.

Being from Shakopee, what are some things you enjoy about going to school close to home, as opposed to some of your teammates who are from far away?
A: Even with being so close to home, I actually do not go home any more than the out-of-town girls do. But, one perk to being so close to home that I really enjoy is the home-cooked meals and the food that my mom and dad will bring me once in a while.

What's your favorite thing to do when you're away from the gym and have some free time?
A: I really enjoy cooking while Dusti (Russell) and I listen to R&B love songs. I also love watching movies and being active outside.

What's been your favorite trip the team has made?
A: My favorite trip so far was when we went to California my freshman year. It was a double header weekend so we got to be there for five days. We also got to enjoy the beautiful weather and a home-cooked feast made by the captain-at-the-time's grandmother; so delicious!

Is there a book you've read or a movie you've seen recently that you'd recommend to fans, and why?
A: I love books and I love to read, but with the reading I have to do for school, it's kind of hard to find time to also read for pleasure. So, most of my reading occurs over the summer or winter break. However, I do watch movies year-round, and I recently saw The Hobbit. I love sci-fi movies, so if you are somewhat of a geek for them like me, then I would definitely recommend seeing it!