An All-American performance

Junior Julia Stedman earns second team All-American honors in gymnastics


Photo by Anna Mateffy

Junior Julia Stedman traveled to UW-La Crosse this past weekend to compete in the Division III national gymnastics meet. She earned second team All-American honors, tying for ninth place in both the floor exercise and vault events.

Story by Meghan Hosely, Online Editor

Julia Stedman wrapped up her gymnastics season this past weekend, competing at the NCAA Division III national meet, hosted by UW-La Crosse. Stedman competed in the floor exercise and the vault, tying for ninth in each event.

Her ninth place finishes earned her second team All-American honors. These honors are awarded to gymnasts who place seventh through 12th.

For Stedman, this isn’t the first time she’s achieved second team All American status, or her first time competing at the national level. The junior has made it to the national meet all three years during her tenure at UW-Eau Claire and earning second team All-American status her freshman year as well.


Preparing for the big show

Stedman said she had about two weeks to prepare for the meet held March 28. While the gym in McPhee Physical Education Center was open to all gymnasts for open gym, Stedman was the only working with her head coach, Jean DeLisle.

Since spring break happened during the week of nationals, Stedman said her and DeLisle had to strategically plan out where they would practice throughout the week prior to the meet.

“I practiced two times before spring break, and then I had a couple days off,” Stedman said. “Both my coach and I are from The cities, so we talked to the Hamline (University) (Minn.) coach and … I worked out in their gym with them.”

Stedman said practicing at Hamline’s gym was different from practicing in McPhee. However, all of the Hamline gymnasts were there to support her and cheer her on. The junior also said it was helpful because at times, it was hard for her to motivate herself to practice her best.

After two practices in St. Paul, the gymnast took one day off before heading to La Crosse to practice a couple days before Saturday.

At the national meet, the teams who qualified through their regional meet competed Friday night, along with the gymnasts who qualified in all four events. The individual qualifiers, like Stedman, competed Saturday, which Stedman describes as a more positive atmosphere.

“Day two is an individual day,” she said. “You really just want everyone to … do their best and it’s cool to have other teams cheer for you that you’re not used to hearing.”


Support system

While Stedman was the only athlete from Eau Claire at the national meet, she wasn’t alone while she trained. While Stedman said, “about 90 percent of the team” was at nationals cheering for her, DeLisle was at every practice, along with assistant coach Danielle Schulzetenberg and teammate Liz Stubbs.

Stubbs, a junior, suffered an injury in the last meet of the regular season against UW-Stout, which ended her season. Although DeLisle made it known she thinks Stubbs should have been granted a spot in the national meet, she also said Stubbs really helped out Stedman in the practices leading up to nationals.

“Liz is so in tune to what Julia needs,” DeLisle said. “It’s one of those things where you can see where one makes the other better. Liz should have been there competing if she hadn’t gotten hurt, so Liz had a real appreciation for what Julia wanted to do, which was to get All-American honors.”

Stedman said she doesn’t think she could’ve gone through the experience without Stubbs, especially since she knew how to calm Stedman down.

“I was stressing out at practices and she was like, ‘You know what? You made it here and God gave you the opportunity to be here, so have fun,’” Stedman said.


The next step

Looking ahead to next season, Stedman said her and her teammates haven’t made any concrete goals, especially since new team members will join and seniors will graduate.

A main focus for the team year after year is building a team atmosphere, the junior said.

However, before practice begins for the 2015 season, Stedman has another season to go through. The junior is also entering her third season on the outdoor track and field team, competing in the triple jump event.

“I started track my freshman year of high school, and I will say gymnastics is definitely what made me able to do college track and field,” she said.

After contacting both DeLisle and track and field head coach Chip Schneider, Stedman was set to compete in both sports in college.

She said she competes for the full season of gymnastics, and then goes straight into the outdoor season, which started earlier this week.

Stedman said it was an expectation for her to compete at the national level this year for gymnastics, and the junior has the same expectations for her track and field efforts this season, as she qualified for nationals in triple jump in last years outdoor season.

In the offseason, Stedman said she tries to mostly train for gymnastics, although both sports offer the same types of workouts she does in order to succeed.

“Both gymnastics and jumping for track are comparable with the workouts that I need to do, so it makes it a lot easier,” Stedman said. “Now if I were a sprinter or a distance person, I’d have to do a lot more training and I wouldn’t be as successful as I am in track.”