A dynamic freshman gymnast is quickly gaining national recognition and UA coaches said she has the potential to become one of the best athletes in their program.
Amanda Wellick, Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, dominated season meets with an all-around best of 39.300 and, along with senior Katherine Grable, will compete as an individual at the NCAA Championship.
“The first thing that stands out about Amanda is that she is just so dynamic when she is performing. You watch her move and you are just captivated,” co-head coach Rene Lyst said. “I think she will be as dominant as Casey Jo Magee, Jaime Pisani and Katherine. She is definitely on the same path.”
A Wheaton, Ill., native, Wellick came to the University of Arkansas with club experience. She performed for the Legacy Elite Gymnastics Club where she was a four-time Junior Olympic National Qualifier, three-time floor exercise state champion and three-time Region 5 All-Star Team selection.
Coming to Arkansas gave Wellick a new perspective on her sport, she said.
“For club gymnastics, it is much more individual,” she said. “Coming here, it is more about the team and I like it so much better. I have gotten used to that aspect.”
Wellick said she began gymnastics when she was 4 years old because her mother did not want to be bored.
“My sister was in a class so my mom put me in a class too because she didn’t want me to be bored. Then from there, I just went on,” Wellick said.
Unlike her sister Jessica, who is a collegiate swimmer for Michigan State, Amanda stuck with gymnastics, successfully competing in all four events.
What makes Wellick stand out, besides her young success, Lyst said, is her ability to use her height to her advantage. Standing 5-feet-6-inches, she is one of the tallest individuals on the Razorback team.
“She is a taller athlete,” Lyst said. “Some gymnasts do (have difficulty) because their limbs are longer and their gravity is a higher. The thing about Amanda is she is so well proportioned and so strong. It is really something that she has utilized to her advantage and makes her stand out.”
Though she is an all-around gymnast, Wellick said she most enjoys floor, in which her personal best is a 9.825, which she set against Western Michigan.
“I love competing floor. That is probably my favorite because of the performance aspect of it,” she said. “I think it is really fun to just show everyone, and I think the audience is really engaged with floor events too.”
Wellick will get to show off her floor routine along with the rest of her skills in Session II of the 2014 NCAA Gymnastics Championships Friday in Birmingham, Ala. She will rotate with No. 7 Nebraska.
For Wellick, the NCAA is a chance to honor the team that has helped her grow over the last year, she said, and also just to do what she does best.
“It is an honor. I am really excited. The team has been really helpful in getting there in every single way,” she said. “I want to do the best that I can and just do gymnastics.”
Like many athletes, Wellick has her superstitions and rituals surrounding competition. To ensure success in nationals, she said she must have her lucky socks.
“I have a lot of superstitions,” she said. “I wear these certain socks before meet day and during the day and then I wear the same socks in it. I don’t know why it is socks, but I have just worn them for like the past four years.”
Lyst said Wellick has what it takes to compete well as long as she keeps her mind focused on the task at hand.
“I think she just needs to work on staying calm,” Lyst said. “She will be with Nebraska, and they will be duking it out to make the super six. She needs to make sure she is not influenced by what they are doing, but focused on what she is doing. I know the coaching staff will work hard to make sure she is doing that.”
For Wellick, this is just the beginning, and she said she is working to win an NCAA title for her team and also make All-American before she graduates.