Weyer leaves no doubt

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Gymnast Justine Weyer has been named the Royal Purple 2009-10 Female Athlete of the Year after winning her second individual national championship in March. Photo by Kristine Johnson.

2009-10 Royal Purple Female Athlete of the Year: Justine Weyer

Justine Weyer’s place in the UW-Whitewater gymnastics record books is very secure.

The eight All-American honors help her cause, as do her two individual national championships.

To cap it off, Weyer ended her college career with her second vault national title March 27 in Springfield, Mass.

“It was kind of that fairy tale ending everyone hopes for,” Weyer said.

As a result of her banner season, she has been selected as the 2009-10 Royal Purple Female Athlete of the Year. It’s the second consecutive year a gymnast has won the award.

Weyer’s former teammate, Ashley George was selected after winning an individual title on the uneven bars in 2009.

However, Weyer’s fairy tale ending almost never happened, because she contemplated walking away from the sport she loved so deeply.

She even said gymnastics wasn’t fun anymore.

It was a complete 180 for someone who had spent so many hours on the balance beam and for someone who had wowed crowds on the vault since she was 4 years old.

Luckily, she changed her mind.

While it wasn’t always easy, the decision proved to be a wise one, after reaching feats no UW-Whitewater gymnast has accomplished in the program’s history.

“Gymnastics here has changed everything for me,” Weyer said. “I’m sad that I’m done. I wish I could keep going.”

Head coach Jen Regan said she just witnessed the best to ever put on a purple and black leotard.

“She’s the most decorated Whitewater gymnast in history,” Regan said. “It is pretty amazing.”

Change of Heart

However, being a Warhawk and a Division III athlete was not always in Weyer’s mind. Moreover, her second title this year was not a forgone conclusion, either.

She was highly recruited by many Division I schools in 2006, but ultimately chose the University of Illinois at Chicago.

After just one year, though, the Germantown High School product left the school.

“It was great at first, until gymnastics started,” Weyer said. “It just wasn’t for me. My coaches and I didn’t get along. It was not what I had in mind. It was very emotionally draining. After my freshman year, I didn’t even want to do gymnastics anymore.”

When searching for a new school, Weyer was contacted by a now former UW-Whitewater gymnast and the ’Hawks assistant coach Ryan Bendixon.

Their persuading paid off, and Weyer began her sophomore year with a bang.

She won the program’s second individual national championship and first since 2000 when she captured the vault title in 2008.

Weyer didn’t win a national championship her junior year but did add two more All-American honors to her growing résumé.

Defining Moment

So what would Weyer do in her final year?

The season started out well, but as the team got into the heart of the season the question wasn’t if she would win her second title. It was whether she would even compete or not.

Weyer sat out two meets in February with a stress fracture in her lower left leg.

She had to wear a walking boot for two and a half weeks, and as the postseason loomed, Weyer, who three years earlier wanted to quit the sport, wondered if she would suit up again.

“It’s just not something you want to end your career on,” she said. “It was nerve-racking. I didn’t even know if the doctor would let me compete.”

The doctor did and Weyer made sure she would make the most of her opportunity. After competing in just one meet since the injury, Weyer led the Warhawks to their first WIAC/West Regional championship March 7.

After a three-week break that enabled her to further rest the injury, she continued that momentum into the national tournament. With a 9.7, one of the best scores she has ever produced, Weyer captured another vault title.

“It’s kind of surreal to be completely honest,” Weyer said. “That’s something at any Division: I, II or III you strive to do, and to do it twice is just kind of crazy. But it’s exciting, very exciting.”

She added that it was more satisfying knowing she overcame an injury to win this championship.

Team Leader

Freshman Mary Kate Young said even when Weyer was out of action, she motivated the team, which finished third at the national tournament.

“She was the leader,” Young said. “It means a lot when someone’s injured and they can get you motivated to work hard. She wanted the team to win more than she wanted herself to win. That really helped push us to where we got.”

While Weyer said her ultimate goal was to win the all-around national championship (she finished fourth this year), Regan said she is just happy to see Weyer leave with a smile on her face.

“Justine found the love of the sport again at Whitewater,” Regan said. “She’s going to be missed. But seeing Justine go out the way she did … I don’t think words can actually put it into writing as to how I felt and how I think she felt. So it’s a great moment, that’s for sure.”