BYU gymnast and the transition from athlete to alumna

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The end of a college athletic career can be a scary crossroads for athletes who have dedicated their entire lives to a sport.

BYU senior Raquel Willman Hatch’s gymnastics career started when she was just 4 years old and came to a close this last week as the BYU women’s gymnastics team placed sixth in regionals.

Raquel Willman Hatch competes in the floor exercise in a meet against Utah State. Photo by Ari Davis
Raquel Willman Hatch competes in the floor exercise in a meet against Utah State. Photo by Ari Davis

“Growing up, my biggest goal was always to go to BYU and to do gymnastics,” Hatch said. “And that has been my biggest accomplishment so far. Now that I am done competing, it is kind of scary to think that I need a new, big goal.”

Hatch was named Mountain Rim Gymnastics Conference (MRGC) Gymnast of the Week twice and Specialist of the Week once during her senior year. In addition she was also named All-Conference All-Around second team. Hatch sat down with the Universe to discuss her athletic dreams that allowed her to have four successful years as a BYU gymnast and also the changes that are sure to come now that she has finished competing.

What was your main goal for your senior year?

Hatch: My individual goal this year was to be proud of each performance. With gymnastics, you can’t always control the outcome or the score. So we talk about that a lot. You can only control what you can control, in other words, your performance. So for me, I wanted to be proud of each routine, do what I do in practice, just nail all of my routines.

How have you changed as an athlete since you arrived at BYU?

Hatch: I would definitely say that I’m mentally stronger. In club ball, it was a miracle if I could make four out of four events. I would always fall in one of the events. In club, it is totally an individual sport. What I did only affected me. But coming to BYU and competing as a team forced me to be mentally strong. It forced me to perform for my team, almost like an incentive. I think I have grown up a lot in college.

Do you have any pre-competition rituals?

I am superstitious. I have to have my hair a certain way. I can’t try anything different. It has to be the same way with the same number of clips in the same places. Also, I always have to have all of the equipment straight. The runway has to be straight with the board. Sometimes the bars are set up weird, and I’m like, we have to fix this. Even with the beam — the beam itself is always straight, but when you’re looking down and the mats underneath are a little bit crooked, I have to fix the beam so that they line up with the mat. It’s weird, I know, but that’s my quirk.

What has been your biggest accomplishment this year?

Hatch: In one of the home meets, this still hasn’t really hit me, but I scored a 9.95 on the bars, and that felt pretty awesome. That same meet I did well in the other three events, so my overall score was a 49.4, which is my highest ever.

What is your most memorable experience in gymnastics?

Hatch: Honestly, it’s not so much about the competition. Of course I will remember how great I felt when I set a personal record. But I think what I will remember most is how great it is to be on a team, to work together to get better and the friendships you make.

Has your family been a big part of gymnastics?

Hatch: My parents sometimes are more obsessed with gymnastics than me. My mom texted me during my last meet and told me how she was going to start crying as soon as I got up to do my last competition — the vault. She was sad that it would be the last time that she would see me compete. My dad loves it as well. Sometimes I think they are more obsessed with it than me.

What are your post-gymnastics plans?

Hatch: I’m excited to actually have hobbies for the first time in my life! I don’t think I will use my therapeutic recreation major. My husband and I really want to move back to Phoenix. I know I want to become a mom eventually, but I also really want to become a gymnastics judge. I want to help make the sport less biased.

How will your BYU experience help shape your future?

Hatch: I think BYU will help shape how I raise my family and the example that I can be to other people as I leave college and get out into the real world. I can go out and hopefully share the light of Christ with others.

Her athletic career behind her, Hatch sets out into the world without upcoming seasons or matches. She hopes to “nail it” in life — as she has done so often with her gymnastic routines at BYU.

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