This is the first in a series of three question and answer sessions with the freshmen from the Golden Gopher women’s gymnastics team. First on the docket is Kylie Smith, a newcomer from Broken Arrow, Okla., near Tulsa. Kylie comes to the Gopher program as a highly-touted gymnast and top-level student. She intends to major in marketing in the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
Now that you’ve been on campus for a month or two, what are your first impressions?
Kylie: “I love it here. The coaches and my teammates are so great. My classes have been good. I’ve met so many great people, I’m having a blast! The weather is definitely getting colder faster than it does at home, but I’m adjusting.”
What’s your favorite event?
Kylie: “Vault and floor. Vault comes easiest to me, and floor is where I get a chance to perform and show off.”
How did you get started in gymnastics?
Kylie: “I started in dance, and then my mom enrolled me in a tumbling class when I was four years old. I had so much fun, I was hooked on gymnastics from there.”
How did you decide that Minnesota was the right place for your college career?
Kylie: “When I first started looking at the options, I knew I wanted to go to college in a great city, and go to a place with a strong business school. Then I looked at schools that met those two things and had good gymnastics programs. I wanted to join a team where my strengths fit the needs of the program, so I knew I could contribute. Jim (Stephenson), Meg (Stephenson) and Jenny (Hansen) were so great throughout the recruiting process, I knew that I would feel at home here.”
Were there any hesitations about moving away from home?
Kylie: “Not really. There are a few gymnastics schools close to home, like Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri, but I knew that I didn’t want to stay in a college town. I grew up near Tulsa, so I was ready to move to a bigger city with more options.”
What do you think of living in a college dorm?
Kylie: “I had never shared a room before, so that’s really different. My roommate is a freshman on the basketball team, Kiara Buford, and since she’s from the Twin Cities, she has helped me adjust to life here. Everyone I’ve met who is from here has been so nice and so welcoming.”
What has been the biggest adjustment from club gymnastics to college gymnastics?
Kylie: “I think the biggest difference is knowing that my teammates are counting on me just as much as I’m counting on them. Everyone is so supportive of each other, and we all cheer for each other every day in the gym. I know that they want me to be the best I can be because then I can help the team, just like I want all the other girls to be their best. The better we are individually, the better we are as a team.”
When you think about your first meet this winter in the Sports Pavilion, what are you most excited about?
Kylie: “The crowd! I have never competed at a meet where everyone is cheering for me. At club meets, of course my parents were cheering, and the other gymnasts from my club cheered for me, but I’ve never had a couple thousand people watching my routines and cheering for me. That will be so fun, I’m really excited to compete in front of the Gopher fans!”
Will your family get to see you compete during the season?
Kylie: “Since we’re competing at Oklahoma and Arkansas this season and those schools are close to home, my parents will get to see our team compete at those two places. That’s only a two-hour drive from home, so they will definitely be there. My parents and my brother will also come to Minneapolis for a few meets. It will be great to have them in the stands supporting me!”
What are some goals you’ve set for your college career?
Kylie: “Our team had goals of winning the Big Ten meet and making it to nationals this season. It would be great if we made the Super Six. We’re all working really hard to make that happen. Individually, I just want to be the best gymnast I can be. Jim and Meg running a teaching program here, and I know I will get better throughout my career at Minnesota. I know I haven’t reached my full potential yet, and I want to accomplish that during my time here.”