Elite and NCAA Gymnast Training Updates—Part 8


Full Twist contributor Anna Rose Johnson recently caught up with some elite, Level 10, and NCAA gymnasts to discuss their training, future goals, and more.

April Baker, Krista Collins, Courtney Cowles, Ivana Hong, Maddie Kampschroeder, Lauren Mitchell, Alyssa Pritchett, Emily Schild, Samantha Shapiro, and Caitlin Smith provided us with thoughtful insights into their training.



April Baker is a former U.S. Level 10 artistic gymnast from Brestyan’s American Gymnastics in Massachusetts. She is now a sophomore at Rutgers, where she competes in NCAA gymnastics. “The training this season has gone awesome,” April told Full Twist. “The team and I are in the gym every day working real hard and I think that will be able to be seen once we begin competing. We are looking forward to that.”

In January, April was named EAGL Rookie of the Week and competed in two competitions for Rutgers during the season. “I think one of the goals for 2015 is to hold our own in the Big Ten and not just to settle for what we’re doing,” commented April. “We are striving to be better and get higher scores. I just hope we can go out there and surprise people. We want to build off the success of last season.”

When asked if she is going to debut any new skills this year, April replied, “Everything will be new because I didn’t really compete too much last year due to injury. I’m looking to add some harder passes on floor and more connections on bars and maybe in time upgrade my vault.”



 Krista Collins is a U.S. artistic Level 10 gymnast from Southeastern Gymnastics. She competed at the 2014 J.O. National Championships, finishing 35th in the all-around. “Training has been going really well!” Krista told Full Twist. “We have slowly been starting to put our routines together in order to get ready for [the] season. Starting in September we have a practice meet in the gym each month until our first meet of the season, which is in January. This helps us and our coaches to see what we are doing well and what still needs improvement to be successful for the upcoming season. As for my routines, I’m adding some more connections for higher difficulty on each event. I also just got a new floor routine and I’m ready to get out there and show it off!”

Krista recently signed with the University of Pittsburgh for the 2015-16 season. “The minute I stepped on campus at Pitt I knew it was the place for me. I just felt so comfortable and welcome there. The coaches are absolutely incredible and their coaching style is something that drew me even closer. I love the city campus that Pitt has because there is always something going on and it’s always busy, which I like. Each time I visit, I grow closer and closer to the girls on the team and I am confident that I will fit in well with them. I cannot wait to get there and start my journey at the school that I fell in love with immediately. I couldn’t even imagine going anywhere else!”

17-year-old Krista explained her gymnastics goals: “My goals for this year are to be as successful as I possibly can and to just have fun and enjoy my last season in the J.O. program. I would also love to make it to Nationals again for my fourth year in a row. As for my long-term goals, I want to compete to the best of my ability for the University of Pittsburgh and lead them to conference and regional titles. I can’t wait to compete for Pitt next year!”

When asked about her next competition, Krista replied, “Prior to the season we will have two more practice meets. One in November at my gym and one in December with another local gym in a different location so that we can get used to competing on other equipment. This will ensure that we are fully ready for season. My first competition of this season will be the first weekend in January at the Gala in Asheville, North Carolina.”




 Courtney Cowles is a U.S. artistic Level 10 gymnast. She is a three-time Junior Olympic national qualifier and trains at Brandy Johnson’s Global Gymnastics. “Training has been going really well,” Courtney told Full Twist. “A few months ago I started training at Brandy Johnson’s Gymnastics and I love it. Going to Brandy’s has had a really positive impact on my gymnastics. I’m working hard to get ready for the upcoming competition season.”

Courtney has committed to the University of Arizona for the 2016-17 season. She explained, “My goals are to stay healthy and have a solid and successful last two years of J.O. I’m hoping to go to J.O. Nationals again this year and next year. I want to go into my collegiate career, work hard, and have fun competing as an Arizona Wildcat!”

The former HOPES gymnast told us, “My first competition will be January 9th-11th at the Atlanta Crown meet in Atlanta, Georgia.”

When asked why she chose the University of Arizona, Courtney responded, “There are a lot of reasons why I chose the University of Arizona. I have always loved watching the team compete; they have such good energy and tons [of] excitement during meets. On my unofficial visit, I fell in love with the campus the minute I got there; the girls and coaches were so welcoming and kind. I knew I wanted to be a Wildcat right away. They also have such strong programs both academically and in the gym.”



Ivana Hong is one of the most successful current NCAA gymnasts. An elite competitor from 2003-2009, Ivana now competes for Stanford University. “Training has been great,” Ivana told Full Twist. “Having redshirted last season, it is really nice to be flipping again. Being out last year really helped put things in perspective for me. As we all know, participating in this sport doesn’t last forever so I’m really just enjoying every day that I am able to be in the gym doing what I love. It’s even better being able to do it alongside 14 other girls who are united by a common goal and of whom I cannot just call my teammates, but friends for a lifetime.”

It’s been seven years since Ivana won gold with her U.S. team at the 2007 World Championships. “First off, I can’t believe it’s been seven years already! I was so young then, which means I must be old now? I was only 14 in Stuttgart and it was my first year as a senior. I remember how awesome it was to be competing on such a world class level, against the best of the best. Being a member of the 2007 World Championship team was an incredible experience and a memory I will never forget!”

Ivana won the 2009 World bronze medalist on balance beam and was second all-around at the 2009 Visa Championships. At the 2012 NCAA Championships, Stanford placed fourth as a team and Ivana placed fourth on beam. “My goal for the rest of 2014 is to really maximize the time we have left in the gym during preseason,” Ivana explained. “With the addition of Elizabeth Price (Ebee) adding so much power and energy and the experience of returning members, we’re looking forward to a great year and I can’t wait for the upcoming 2015 season! The team is really a great group of not only athletes, but people who are always striving to be their best in the gym and the classroom.”

When asked if she was hoping to debut any new skills in 2015, Ivana replied, “Nothing new that I’ve never tried before, but there may be a couple additions that I hadn’t previously competed throughout my collegiate career.”

On the subject of returning to elite, Ivana told us, “No, I’m content with where I am with gymnastics right now. I do reminisce on my days in elite every now and then, but I think being at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, Stanford, is exactly where I should be at this point of my gymnastics career and in life. Elite gymnastics and collegiate gymnastics are completely different playing fields and of course there were things I loved and didn’t about both. I am grateful I got to experience both of them; representing the U.S. was always a dream of mine and an absolute honor – just as competing for the Cardinal is now.”

Ivana also added, “We are scheduled to be televised on the Pac-12 Networks six times this upcoming season so be sure to tune in!”



 Madison “Maddie” Kampschroeder is a U.S. artistic Level 10 gymnast who trains at Fuzion Gymnastics Center. She competed at the 2014 and 2013 J.O. National Championships. “Training has been going great!” Maddie told Full Twist. “We started working half routines this past month to prepare for the upcoming season. I like working halves because I can finally start putting all my skills together!”

A former HOPES gymnast, Maddie placed fourth in the all-around at the 2014 Metroplex Challenge. “My short-term goals are to perfect the skills I have right now and to place [in the] top 10 at J.O.’s,” said Maddie. “My long-term goals are to get a Division 1 scholarship, compete AA and lead the team to Championships!”

On the subject of new skills for 2015, Maddie told us, “I’m hoping to debut a Ray on bars, a full twisting Yurchenko on vault, and to consistently compete a double Arabian on floor.”

When asked if she might try elite gymnastics, Maddie replied, “I competed elite from age 11-13 and qualified in compulsories, but not optionals. I decided to focus on being a really good Level 10 gymnast instead of continuing with elite.”

Maddie informed us when her next competition will be: “My first meet is the Meet Me in St. Louis invite. I’m also going to Sand Dollar, Pikes Peak, Nadia Comaneci Invite, Northern Lights and the St. Louis Classic. I can’t wait for season to start!”



 Lauren Mitchell is one of the top Australian elite artistic gymnasts. Since we last caught up with the two-time Olympian in May, she competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, placing second with her team and second on the floor exercise.

Unfortunately, Lauren had to withdraw from the 2014 World Championships due to injuries. “At the moment, my training has been focused around rehab, and getting healthy again from the recent World Championships, where I unfortunately injured both my ankles,” Lauren told Full Twist.

When asked about her goals for the rest of 2014 and beyond, Lauren replied, “My goals are basically get healthy and strong again, and at the moment I have my university exams coming up, so I’m focusing on finishing up well for these exams.”

Lauren, a former World champion on floor exercise, told us, “I don’t really know when my next competition will be. Once I get healthy again, and get my program back, I will focus on competitions.”

On the subject of debuting new skills in 2015, Lauren mentioned, “For next year, given the opportunity, I would love to compete my new skill on floor that I was going to debut at this year’s World Championships.”



Alyssa Pritchett is a former NCAA gymnast at UCLA Gymnastics who is now training elite gymnastics. “Right now, I have been working on some new skills on floor and vault as well as increasing my endurance to get ready for full floor routines,” Alyssa told Full Twist. “On vault, I am working a Tsukahara 1 ½ and front handspring layout half. Eventually I would like to turn that into a rudi, so I have just started working them into the pit. As far as floor passes, I have several I am working on. I want to start out with a routine I have already competed: full-twisting double layout, half in half out tucked, double tuck, and double pike. After qualifiers, I want to upgrade to double-double, full-twisting double layout, half in half out tucked, and double pike. The goal is to compete whatever passes I can do most consistent and clean. Besides the normal aches and pains, I have been healthy, which is the most important thing. I can’t wait to get back out there and compete! I am just taking it one day at a time and enjoying the journey. God has blessed me with the opportunity to continue in gymnastics, and I am going to give it my all and leave the outcome up to Him!”

Alyssa placed third at the 2012 NCAA Championships with her UCLA team. She told us, “My short-term goal is to qualify for Classics and then [the P&G] Championships. More specifically, I want to compete my Tsukahara 1 ½ and handspring layout half and to consistently hit my floor routine with clean landings and leaps. My goal by the end of next year (fall 2015) would be to make [the] national team and get selected for Worlds.”

When asked about her next competition, Alyssa replied, “I am for sure going to the AOGC qualifier in February since it is local for me, but I most likely will go to one more before that.”

In addition to her vaults, Alyssa mentioned more new skills for 2015: “By fall of next year, I want to compete [a] double-double and full twisting double layout in the same routine. I also have a special side pass I want to compete…but you will just have to wait and see for that one.”



Emily Schild is U.S. artistic elite gymnast from Everest Gymnastics. At the 2013 Secret Classic, she placed third on vault in the junior division and went on to place eighth on vault at the 2013 P&G Championships. “Training is going great!” Emily told Full Twist. “I feel good and am working hard on my consistency with higher difficulty routines.”

When asked about her goals for the rest of 2014 and beyond, Emily replied, “Since 2013 was so crazy (competing level 10, Nastia Cup, national team camp, qualifying elite, qualifying and competing at the Secret Classic and P&G’s), I want to settle into an elite routine and see where I can take it. Last December I committed to the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) for the 2017-2018 season, but for now I will continue attending the national teams camps with the goal of earning a spot on the national team and competing internationally.”

The 16-year-old told us, “I’ll be upgrading all events. Can’t wait to show everyone!”

Emily was on the rosters to compete at the 2014 Secret Classic at P&G Championships, but she had to pull out shortly before. “I qualified for both events early last year in Texas, so plane tickets were purchased and hotel reservations were made, then two weeks before Secret Classic a stress fracture took me out of the competitions,” Emily explained. “I was anxious to show everyone my senior elite routines. I’m healthy now and ready for the 2015 season! I am not sure where my first competition will be, but I’m looking forward to competing again!”



Samantha Shapiro is a former U.S. National Team member who now competes for Stanford University in NCAA gymnastics. “Training has been going really well,” Samantha told Full Twist. “The team is looking awesome and we’re getting really excited for this season. We’re working hard in the gym and having a great time together.”

At the 2014 NCAA Championships, Samantha won the uneven bars silver medal. Her past accomplishments include a seventh-place all-around finish and a fourth-place finish on floor at the 2010 Visa Championships. “For the rest of 2014, my goal is to keep training hard and doing whatever I can to help this team be as successful as it can be and reach its full potential at the end of the year. Personally, I am really hoping to bring back beam this year. I’ve been dying to get back on beam and am really excited about the prospect of competing it again this year. In addition to beam, I want to be a strong contributor to the team on bars and floor. Overall I strive to help lead the team in giving it our all in preparing for season, and then keeping us motivated, pushing hard, and enjoying ourselves until the very end.”

On the subject of debuting new skills in 2015, Samantha told us, “While it wouldn’t necessarily be ‘new’ skills, getting back on the beam and competing skills I haven’t done in a few years would be just as exciting for me as debuting a new skill. Beam has always been one of my favorite events so the chance to be able to get back up there would be awesome.”

When asked if she might ever return to elite, Samantha replied, “As much as I love gymnastics and have thoroughly enjoyed my journey both in elite as a U.S. National Team member and now competing for Stanford, I think the end of this upcoming competition season will be the end of my gymnastics career. It’s definitely a little scary and sad to think about it coming to an end, and gymnastics will always be a big part of my life, but after this season I think I’ll be ready to move on, start building a new professional career off of the great academic opportunities I’ve been given here at Stanford, and find my next passion.”

Samantha added, “The team this year looks amazing. I’m so excited to see what’s in store for us. I’ve been honored to be able to compete for Stanford the last three years and just know that this year is going to be a very emotion-filled, bittersweet year as it’s my last with this team that’s become my family and it’s my final year at Stanford.”



Caitlin Smith is a U.S. junior elite artistic gymnast who trains at Paramount Elite. At the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic, she placed 35th in the all-around. “Training is going well,” Caitlin told Full Twist. “I got a new floor routine choreographed by Antonia [Markova], which I’m really excited to be working on. I’ve also put new combos into my beam routine and have a lot of upgrades for bars and floor that I’m training.”

Caitlin is a year too young to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics, but she is already showcasing strong gymnastics. “It was really exciting to be at [Secret U.S. Classic] working out with and competing alongside all the top gymnasts,” Caitlin remarked. “It was a great experience.”

When asked if she is working on any new skills for 2015, Caitlin replied, “Yes. [A] Maloney—pak combo and double layout full out on bars. Side aerial—layout—layout on beam. I’m also putting my Onodi and standing Arabian back into my beam routine. On floor I hope to compete my full-in and my 1 ½ punch front double full.  On vault I’m working towards a double twisting yurchenko.”

On the subject of her gymnastics goals, Caitlin told us, “Right now my goal is to make P&Gs [in 2015].  I’m trying to stay focused on my short-term goals and not get too overwhelmed by the long-term. I do hope to get a NCAA scholarship.”

As for her next competition, Caitlin mentioned, “The plan is that I’ll be doing a couple of events at the San Diego Classic. My first full competition will be the elite qualifier at the WOGA Classic.”


Special thanks to all the gymnasts for chatting with us! Stay tuned for Part 9, which will include updates with Alyona Shchennikova, Julie Croket, and others

Image via Getty Images.

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