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A collegiate gymnast's NCAA Championships experience

Julia Ross

NCAA National Championships
No.5 The DU Pioneers

"It makes me such a proud alumnus! Competing at Nationals was one of my favorite memories and greatest achievements as a gymnast."
- Julia Ross

NCAA National Championships are upon us once more, and we had the pleasure of learning more about the Denver Gymnastics Pioneers, who won their Regional Championships for the first time in program history to earn their fifth team appearance to the NCAA Championships!

Julia Ross, a former alumnus of the Denver Gymnastics Team, answered some questions for us about this weekend’s championships and shared her own experience as a competitive gymnast for Denver.

Ross, who competed for DU from 2014-2017, was one of the most successful gymnasts to pass through Denver’s gym. Her success includes competing all-around in Semifinal 1 of the 2017 NCAA National Championships. Ross is also a three-time scholastic All- American, 2017 second-team NACGC All-American on bars, and a regular season second-team All-American on the balance beam and in all-around!

Julia Ross

With the JO National Championships fast approaching we are excited to give you a glance into Denver’s team and life as a college gymnast, straight from a former collegiate gymnast!

Destira:  Can you tell me about your recruiting process/ how you earned a spot on the Denver gymnastics team?
Julia Ross: My recruiting process felt very quick. I had only just started thinking seriously about where I wanted to go for college gymnastics. Melissa (Head Coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart) was good friends with the owner of my club gym which is initially how we found each other. My sophomore year of high school DU watched me compete at JO Nationals, and in the fall of my junior year I was offered the scholarship. I battled many injuries throughout club gymnastics so to have a school like DU take a chance on me made me feel so special.

D: At what point in your JO career did you decide you wanted to do gymnastics in college?
JR: I knew once I reached about 8th or 9th grade I wanted to do college gymnastics, I just knew it would be amazing!

D: What made you choose Denver?
JR: So many things made me choose Denver, the small yet stunning campus felt so homey. The deciding factor for me though was the family-like atmosphere from my future teammates and coaches. As soon as I walked onto campus, I had this feeling in my heart that I was where I was supposed to be. I've only had that feeling a few times in my life, so I trust it when I get it. 

D:  Did you do AA or were you an event specialist?
JR: Competing in the all-around was my goal from day one. It's more challenging in college than club to compete on every event because you have to earn your spot in the lineup, whereas in club it's a requirement to compete all 4. My best events were definitely bars and beam. My senior year was my best year, I competed in the all-around for every single meet, and hit every single routine I competed that year! 

D: What was the biggest transition for you from club gymnastics to college?
JR: The biggest transition for me was the level of precision that was expected! Sharp handstands, tight form, and stuck landings seemed to matter way more in college than in club. It was also a large adjustment learning how to live away from home as well as balancing academics with your demands as an athlete as well.

D: What is your fondest memory of your time competing as a Pioneer?
JR: My fondest memory while competing at DU was senior night when I finished my floor routine, I think I started crying right then and there! The arena was lit up and I could feel the love from my teammates, coaches, and family radiate onto me. It sounds cheesy but it was magical. 

D: When you look back on college, what are some of your best memories?JR: Some of my best memories are traveling with my team! I loved, loved, loved being on the road and competing in new places. We always had a blast and I grew so much as a person learning how to adapt in different environments.  

D: Do you think competing for Denver and being part of the team has shaped you into the person you are today?
JR: It has completely shaped me into who I am today! The work ethic, drive, determination, and other skills I learned from DU have guided through my early adulthood-post graduation. 

D: What does it mean for DU as a program to compete in NCAA Championships this weekend?
JR: It makes me such a proud alumnus! Competing at Nationals was one of my favorite memories and greatest achievements as a gymnast. I am so happy they get to share this awesome experience together!

D: What does it mean for Denver or for any collegiate gymnastics team to make it to Nationals?
JR: For Denver to qualify to Nationals is huge, it shows that we may be a small team from a private university but that doesn't mean we don't have the talent, grit, passion, and drive for perfection to keep with the big teams. We are a big team now. 

D: If you had one piece of advice for gymnasts starting out on the college recruiting path, or who are pondering whether or not they can compete at the collegiate level, what would it be?
JR: My one piece of advice is to ground yourself and truly enjoy the time and moment you're in. You only get this moment once. Learn from it, grow from it, and have fun! If you do things and make your decisions from a place of love and gratitude, life will always lead you down the correct path. 

Denver will compete in Semifinal II on Friday, April 19th at 6:00pm CT/ 5:00pm MT with Oregon State, Georgia and Oklahoma. You can watch the competition on ESPNU and on ESPN2.

Good luck to all of the competitors this weekend! We’ll be rooting for you!