Senior gymnasts ready for final hurrah

With the chance of a potential first-place team finish this year at nationals, seniors Allison Nelson and Katie Hedstrom could have the perfect ending to their careers.

Katie Hedstrom (right) and Allison Nelson will be honored at the ’Hawks’ final meet Saturday against UW-Oshkosh starting at 2 p.m. Photo by Andrew Smith.

“I don’t think there are words that can describe that feeling,” Nelson said. “It would be an amazing feeling to end my career with a good finish, not only for me as an individual but as a team.”

With Senior Night coming up this Saturday at home against UW-Oshkosh, emotion is starting to hit the two seniors, but both know they have work left to do.

“I will definitely feel an impact of me being a senior, but I don’t think I will actually feel it until the last meet or nationals, and then I will be more emotional,” Hedstrom said.

Hedstrom and Nelson, both from Illinois, have left footprints and brought success to the team in their four-year careers.

Nelson was named to the all-WIAC team the past three years and was an NCAA All-American on vault in 2008 and 2009.

“Becoming an All-American on vault would be one of my highlights, and then being able to go to nationals as a team for the last three years,” Nelson said.

With expectations high for Nelson, she would admit that she isn’t the most vocal person on the team, so one weakness she has improved on throughout her career is her ability to lead.

“I have been pretty depended on leading the team along with Katie,” Nelson said. “It’s been a little bit hard at times but I’ve learned to become more vocal about things.”

Nelson has had a good year on vault so far, setting a career high with a score of 9.675 against UW-Eau Claire Feb. 5. She has also averaged a 9.421 on the year.

Although Hedstrom hasn’t started much throughout her career, she has left her mark other ways.

Being a soccer standout in high school, Hedstrom chose UW-Whitewater for gymnastics instead of having the chance to play Division I soccer.

“I did gymnastics because it’s a lot more fun and it’s a part of my life,” Hedstrom said. “And the conditioning you don’t just do running, you condition your entire body. You also get to dance, show off, and it’s more fun than just running around the field kicking a soccer ball.”

Hedstrom is one of those people who will be there through thick and thin and will always support her teammates.

“I can always count on her to make me laugh and put a smile on my face,” sophomore Katie Thompson said. “What I admire most about Katie is her perseverance. She has had many obstacles during her career at UW-Whitewater. However, she stuck with it and never gave up.”

The great thing about Hedstrom and Nelson is their friendship outside of the sport. That friendship also builds off of the team.

“[Nelson] and [Hedstrom] are good friends and have done a great job leading our team this year,” Thompson said. “We are a small team and we spend a lot of time together so all 16 of us are truly like sisters.”

Leaving gymnastics will be hard for the two, but they will move on and will look back at their careers as a success.

“I’ve been doing gymnastics for 20 years now, and it’s just going to be one of those days where you’re finally being shown what you’ve accomplished,” Nelson said. “It’s going to be very emotional.”

Although Hedstrom is done with gymnastics after this year, she will continue her schooling.

“I still have a lot more to do with school, but with gymnastics it’s my last year … it definitely went pretty [well].”

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