Jan. 6, 2012
Arizona senior gymnast Katie Matusik packs a vibrant punch - a member of one of the nation's most storied gymnastics programs, a solid student with aspirations in journalism and broadcasting all while spending numerous hours volunteering her time in the community. As the clock ticks on her senior season, Matusik has big dreams beyond gymnastics... but those can wait. She has her eye on the NCAA Championships.
"Making it to nationals is our goal this year," Matusik said. "The last three years, we've had the talent but we haven't been able to put it together all at once. We know we have the talent to get there and we even have more depth this year. Making it to nationals is a realistic goal for our team."
Knowing the importance of endurance and stamina, the Wildcats have smaller but equally as important goals to accomplish, too.
"We also want to be more disciplined this year," Matusik said. "We've set more rules for ourselves so we can really be at 100 percent in the gym and keep our bodies healthy at the same time."
With a dynamic combination of five freshmen, five sophomores, four juniors and three seniors, this season's squad is deeper and more skilled than ever. Big plans are intact for what they hope to be is an impressive and consistent season.
"In the gym, we have such a great atmosphere because it has been so competitive," Matusik said. "In the past we've had 12 girls and there wasn't as much competition for spots in the line-up. This year, your routine has to be perfect or you won't be in the line-up. There's so much talent and competition every day in practice. This has been the best preseason I've had because of the competition level and we want it so much more. Every day, there is a sense of `I want to be in the line-up'."
Despite a roster loaded with upperclassmen, Matusik is optimistic that the younger members of the squad will be as determined and successful as any.
"Our freshmen from last year have really stepped up," Matusik said. "Jordan Williams has turned into such a dynamite gymnast. Aubree Cristello is going to have a phenomenal all-around year. We have a group of girls that have been training all summer and you can really tell in their performances."
Luckily for head coach Bill Ryden, associate head coach John Court and assistant coach Randi Acosta, this seasoned line-up couldn't come at a better time as the 2012 slate is one of the most challenging in the nation. The Cats will open the New Year in Cancun, facing No. 11 Arkansas, No. 12 LSU, No. 17 Auburn and No. 25 Iowa on Fri., Jan. 6.
"We're more ready for this season than we ever have been," Matusik said. "A couple of us, myself included, have been in our new routines since August. We know we're ready and we know we're going to hit out routines. I think we'll surprise some people."
The list of impressive opponents this season also includes BYU, New Hampshire, Air Force and Utah State before facing the onslaught of Pac-12 schools.
"The Pac-12 is such a competitive and talented conference," Matusik said. "I think our competitors are going to be surprised by Arizona's talent. Typically, we finish ahead of Washington but they had such a great season last year and we didn't have our best. There are Pac-12 gymnasts who have been to the Olympics, been a part of that elite level of gymnastics. It's amazing to me that I can compete on beam and have the same score as UCLA's Samantha Peszek and she is an Olympian. It's such an honor to compete with them but it also makes us want it more."
Matusik had a break out junior season, taking the title of "beam queen". She earned three scores of 9.90 or better on the event, with a career high 9.925 at BYU (2/26). She also earned second place on beam at the NCAA Regional Championships with a score of 9.875, and was named to the first-team All-Pac-10 Beam Team. Matusik was one of two conference student-athletes to be honored with the 2011 Pac-10 Sportsmanship Award.
"When I'm up there (on the beam), I know I have to be confident," Matusik said. "I've done this routine over and over for so long and that helps with my confidence. It's fun for me now. I've almost mastered that confidence. I treat the balance beam more like a performance and not a routine. I don't rush through to get it over with. I want spectators to be in awe of me and really put a good performance on for them."
Taking pride in her performances give Matusik an extra lift of motivation for a season where she's leaving nothing out there. Her time in collegiate gymnastics is slowly coming to an end but she's well prepared for a future inside or outside the gym.
"It's scary, moving on," Matusik said. "I've been doing gymnastics since I was three years old. I was homeschooled from the fourth through 12th grade and I was in the gym for seven hours a day. Gymnastics is a huge part of my life and it's scary to think I'm done after this year. I have a one more year of school left to get my degree and I'll be helping out with the team, like an undergraduate volunteer position. I'm excited for that opportunity and I feel like it will be a good transition out of competing."