Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Walker concludes historic career

UW Oshkosh gymnast Krystal Walker secured her 10th All-American honor by placing seventh in the all-around with a score of 38.325 as she ended her lifelong gymnastics career among the top in program history on March 18.

The National Collegiate Gymnastics Association was held in Brockport, New York where the top 10 scores in the all-around earned All-American status.

Walker is only the third gymnast in UWO history to collect at least 10 All-American awards. Mary Leivian from 1986-89 earned 25 and Lynnda Hahn from 1990-93 claimed 13. Walker also joins Leivian, Hahn and Tiffany Barden (1996-99) as the only gymnasts in program history to win four consecutive All-Americans in the all-around competition.

Walker has been competing in gymnastics since she was 2 years old. She watched her older sister compete at the age of six and showed interest in joining.

She became a part of USA Gymnastics in the Chicago Park District and competed there until she was 14 years old. Walker then moved to Naperville Gymnastics where she stayed throughout high school.

Walker said competition before high school was very intense and she put a lot of time into it.

“I honestly didn’t have much fun with gymnastics growing up,” Walker said. “I felt like it was a job and I needed to be perfect.”

However once she got older, things started to become easier.

“High school got a little more interesting when I started understanding it more,” Walker said. “I can have flaws and I can have fun doing the sport.”

Around the end of her sophomore year Walker was starting to get attention from college scouts. She put together a recruiting video and sent it all over the Midwest.

The University of Illinois at Chicago was the first school to express interest in her.

UWO Head coach Lauren Karnitz said she only watched a little tape on her, but she knew she had to get in touch with her.

“I reached out to her because I wanted her to come here,” Karnitz said. “I didn’t hear much from her coach because she wanted to go to Division I. I tried to get her to come here before she knew about us. I saw her potential. She didn’t have many videos so I saw her as a diamond in the rough.”

Walker said when she met with Karnitz during her senior year, her attitude changed about where she wanted to go to college.
“At first I was interested in UIC,” Walker said. “When Lauren contacted, we hit it off right away and then I knew I was coming here.”

During Walker’s campus visit to UWO, Karnitz said she saw a glimpse into the future.

“When she came for her recruiting trip, she randomly ended up on a promotional video,” Karnitz said. “She was front and center and it kind of foreshadowed her career here.”

After everything was done, Karnitz knew right away Walker belonged in the program and got a sense she was going to fit in well.

“When we were leaving, her mom said at that point we were meant to be together and that I was going to be great for her,” Karnitz said.

After doing more research, Walker made up her mind to become a Titan.

“I liked that it was Divison III,” Walker said. “I went online and liked that it was only two and half hours away from home. Then when I got here I enjoyed the campus and Lauren attracted me to come here.”

When Walker started practice with the Titans, Karnitz knew she was going to have an easy job coaching her after seeing her routine on the balance beam.

“At that point we didn’t have anyone that could do beam like she could,” Karnitz said. “I told the others, ‘This is what I want you guys to do.’”

As a freshman in 2013, Walker was posting scores that would earn her a spot at Nationals.

Walker wasn’t thinking about any of that. She was just having fun for once, while competing in a team atmosphere on a college gymnastics team.

“I didn’t know I was going to succeed right off the bat,” Walker said. “I wanted the actual college experience because I didn’t have that growing up. My high school coach told me once you get into college, you’ll love it. At one point I wanted to quit, but my coach kept pushing me and I’m glad he did. College is completely different.”

Once Nationals came around, Walker earned three All-American accolades on the vault, balance beam and all-around.

Walker said she was shocked and as a freshman she didn’t know what to expect. She was just taking it all in.

“I didn’t know what All-American was,” Walker said. “I knew it was cool and awesome, but I just thought this is a great accomplishment and it wasn’t until Lauren [Karnitz] told me what it was when I fully understood it.”

Karnitz on the other hand knew exactly what was going to happen at the end of the year.

“My thoughts at the beginning of the season made sense,” Karnitz said. “I had nothing else to say that she needed to do better besides take less steps on her dismount.”

Going into 2014, Karnitz said Walker set a new tone for UWO gymnastics. Not only was Walker the first Titan gymnast to earn All-American since 2010, but other girls earned honors at the National meet too.

“She paved the way her freshman year,” Karnitz said. “We had upperclassmen who were kind of on the negative side. They were definitely not on the same page as her. She wanted to make the program the way it is today. It was really nice to have a freshman come in and say, ‘I don’t care what you did before. This is how it’s going to be done now.’”

Junior Taylor Ennocenti said she noticed right away as a freshman how great of a teammate Walker was going to be.

“I was very intimidated, to be honest, because she is the best one on the team,” Ennocenti said. “She then came up to me and was so genuine and nice and that’s how she treated everyone in the gym. She became a lot more approachable.”

Both Karnitz and Walker said going from a three-time All-American as a freshman into a sophomore can be motivational and add a lot of pressure.

“Sophomore year was interesting because she felt a lot of pressure to uphold what she did the year before,” Karnitz said. “A lot of people were expecting her to do great things. She fell a lot on beam in her first four events. But she hasn’t fallen in two years which is pretty difficult to do.”

Walker’s sophomore year brought three more All-Americans in all-around, balance beam and uneven parallel bars. She then added three more her junior year in all-around, balance beam and floor exercise giving her All-American honors in all five events.
The journey for Walker at UWO is everything she was expecting college gymnastics to be.

“It was interesting and cool starting as a freshman not knowing anything,” Walker said. “Then in my sophomore year I had a job to do. In my junior year I had expectations and as a senior I had to take in the freshmen and teach them the process. Each year I had new responsibilities, helping the new girls and set an example for them.”

Walker plans on being an assistant coach for the gymnastics team in 2017 and Ennocenti is grateful to have her around for another year.

“The way that she motivates me is different from the way Lauren would motivate me,” Ennocenti said. “Having her around is going to be a lot of help for all the other girls including the incoming freshmen and I’m glad that they get the privilege to know her, too.”

Karnitz and Walker developed a relationship where she can help motivate future gymnasts with her accomplishments.
“I anticipate her being a future hall of famer,” Karnitz said. “Not only at our school, but in the Division III National organization. I think anytime you have someone who leaves that kind of legacy as an athlete it allows for future generations to come in and want to be like her.”

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