Oct. 8, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. - “Sooner for Life.” Around here it’s more than just a motto, it’s a way of life. Transcending the competitive aspect, it’s being part of a family, thousands strong, sharing a passion for success at the highest levels both athletically and academically.
The Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team has certainly taken this credence to heart. Through their tireless efforts in the classroom, in competition and in the community, the Sooners have made a championship-level commitment in every facet of life.
While their athletics exploits often make the headlines, the following series will enlighten gymnastics fans on life outside of competition for the OU student-athlete and what better way than a first-hand account from a group that has spent the last four years in Norman. SoonerSports.com sat down with members of last year’s senior class to reflect back on their time at OU.
This week’s installment features Haley Horton (DeProspero). A Big 12 co-champion on beam the last two years, Horton has recently started her first year of medical school after marrying former OU All-American and Olympic medalist Jonathan Horton in June.
What lessons did you learn from your gymnastics career at Oklahoma that you can incorporate into your everyday life?
“There are so many. OU gymnastics has had a role in shaping every aspect of my life, so it’s hard to boil it down to a few sentences. But here are a few of the most memorable:
- A group of people with a united goal can do what was never thought possible.
- You have to have faith! Faith in your teammates, faith in your staff, faith in God, and faith in yourself; all equally necessary.
- And last but not least, while a missed flight and a 15-hour bus ride may make for some grouchy girls, it also makes for a Big 12 title."
What role did the OU gymnastics staff have on the person you are today?
“The OU gymnastics staff had a huge impact on the person I am today. They put an emphasis on developing their athletes as whole people- I think that is extremely important. We only do collegiate gymnastics for four years, but the impressions that they’ve made on my teammates and I are everlasting. I feel like I am a more understanding, more well-rounded individual because of them.”
Have you kept in touch with your former teammates / coaches?
“Absolutely. I haven’t been able to get up to Norman since I moved down to Houston because of school, but I’m going up this weekend for the Big 12 ring ceremony. I’m excited!”
What was your favorite part of being an OU gymnast?
“My favorite part of being an OU gymnast is the amazing friendships that I’ve made. From the alumni, to the current and incoming athletes, to the coaches- I expect these friendships to last awhile. Although, being able to so positively represent such an awesome university was pretty amazing too.”
Talk about the role that the OU academic center and staff/coaching staff played in helping you reach your goals academically.
“I feel like our whole staff, from Dr. Gurney (Senior Associate A.D. / Academics) to Annette (academic advisor) to KJ, Lou, and Tom, has the absolute best interest of our team in mind. Not just the team, but the individual people. Not just the athlete, but the overall person. I feel like I had the best possible opportunity to accomplish all of my academic goals with their support.”
Speak a bit about how special last year’s senior class was as a whole – achieving success both academically and bringing home back-to-back Big 12 titles.
“I could not be more proud to be a part of a group of people. I’m so proud of what our team accomplished while Jess, Ashley, Gina and I were seniors. Not necessarily academically or athletically (although back to back Big 12 championships were nice), but within the team as well. Our team last year had amazing chemistry and it was a moving experience. The seniors can’t take credit, however, because the team as a whole had been working so hard on those things for years- I’m just glad it came together so magically our senior year!”
Describe the pride you have in seeing the program rise to the level it has since you were a freshman?
“I have seen this program go through some changes. Fortunately, it has certainly changed for the better. When I look at the team now, I see a great group of young women, with united goals and a coaching staff prepared to help them achieve their goals. What an amazing thing to be a part of. I can’t wait to be at Big 12’s and NCAA’s this year to see what they can do.”
How did you spend your summer and what are you up to now?
“This summer was quite a journey. I completed my eligibility in April, graduated from OU in May, bought a house and got married to Jon (Horton) in June and moved to Houston later that month. After the move, I took a little break though. I tried to do as much of nothing as possible. I started medical school in August, however, so the craziness has started again.”
Describe those first few months of medical school. What you thought it would be? Easier / Tougher?
“So far, medical school has been an incredibly interesting and humbling experience. It’s a different kind of tough since I’m not balancing athletics with my school anymore, but it’s definitely a challenge.”
Jon will be the face of the US squad at the world gymnastics championships as the only returning American team member from the Beijing Olympics. Do you both give little words of encouragement to each other in your respective careers or is it more of just trying to stay out of each other’s way?
“Jon and I have just started to adjust to our new lives, but we’ve had to learn the balance really quickly. We really just try to support each other as much as possible. I encourage him when he has a bad workout, and he is understanding of my late nights studying. It’s working very well so far.”