Sept. 22, 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 Gina Lesko. The Allen, Texas, native concluded both her eligibility and undergraduate studies this past spring and is currently in her first year at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
What role did the OU gymnastics staff have on the person you are today?
“The staff definitely had a role in helping me grow as a person. They were a great influence on my leadership skills and their overall support and encouragement, and emphasis on hard work and self-reliance was a huge factor in kind of maturing into who I am now.”
What lessons did you learn from your gymnastics career at Oklahoma that you can incorporate into your everyday life?
“I learned how to compromise and work in a team environment. With 16 girls, there is bound to be conflict, so I learned how to handle that and mediate it in order to keep things going smoothly and keep everyone happy. On the same note, I learned about the importance of respecting others and the impact of being a friend and a good teammate. Time management was also a big thing. I've got a lot of experience with balancing a hectic schedule and being able to get everything done.”
What was your favorite part of being an OU gymnast?
“My favorite part of being an OU gymnast was the team aspect and camaraderie. I don't really think it can be explained unless you've actually been a part of it, but the bond that forms between us girls is amazing. The competition wasn't what was important to me (obviously, haha), but it was the process of getting there and the way the team works together that matters.”
Talk about the role that the OU academic center and staff/coaching staff played in helping you reach your goals academically.
“The academic center has a huge number of resources available to help athletes academically, which was a great thing to have access to. The coaches were also very supportive of all of our academic goals and always gave school top priority. They gladly made alternate arrangements for practice if there was a conflict with school and really did anything they could to aid our academic success.”
Have you kept in touch with your former teammates / coaches?
“I have definitely kept in touch with everybody. These people became my family and are some of my best friends. Luckily, I'm still close by, so it makes it a little easier to see everyone and keep in touch.”
Sooner Spotlight Series: Gina Lesko | Jessica Kinder | Haley Horton | Ashley Jackson
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.
“Last year's senior class was special because, of course, I was on it. ;) Seriously though, we were able to achieve a lot, individually with our academics, and together as a team. My senior class was a great group of girls and I'm proud of what we did. Really though, I'm just proud to have been part of leading such a great team.”
Describe the pride you have in seeing the program rise to the level it has since you were a freshman?
“I'm very proud of the way the program has developed. The coaches have made great changes and have really turned things around for the better. Not to mention, we've recruited awesome girls and have developed much better team chemistry. I'm proud to have been a part of that and I'm looking forward to seeing even better things in the future.”
How did you spend your summer and what are you up to now?
“I spent my summer relaxing and doing a whole lot of nothing. I spent as much time with my friends and family as I could, and just took advantage of having a bit of time off before starting medical school.”
Describe those first few months of medical school. Is it what you thought it would be?
“Medical school has been good so far! The quantity of information is a little overwhelming, but it’s interesting and I'm learning a lot (I hope), so I'm excited about it. Just don't talk to me during test blocks.“