April 3, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's April edition of Hawk Talk Monthly, the UI athletics department's online publication.
By Jessa Hansen
IOWA CITY, Iowa --Senior Maya Wickus' collegiate career didn't go as expected. The Port Washington, Wis., native never thought she'd transfer from Auburn University after just one year. Becoming a leader on the University of Iowa women's gymnastics team was not part of the plan.
But that's what happened, and Wickus is glad it did.
"Being at Iowa has taught me that I can succeed in both athletics and academics," she said. "After my freshman year at Auburn, I looked at universities that had a balance of school and sports. I also wanted to be closer to home, and Iowa fit the mold."
Though the transition wasn't easy, Wickus found her role within the team and became a fierce competitor on vault and uneven bars.
"The transition was difficult because it was like freshman year all over again," Wickus said. "Trying to adjust to the different schedule and new community was tough, especially because there's a big focus on academics here. After Thanksgiving break, I found where I fit in and realized this was a great place for me."
While Wickus has been one of the steadiest contributors this season on vault and bars, she's also known for her lively personality. Whatever the situation, Wickus has a knack for lowering the stress level and helping give her teammates the confidence needed to thrive.
"Maya's personality lightens the atmosphere," said head coach Larissa Libby. "She is the one that you can always hear, and she's the one that gets the team charged up. This year Maya has learned to relax a little bit and enjoy her role as a team leader. She makes sure that the team is successful at the end of the day."
During that time, Wickus also has succeeded in lowering her own competition anxiety. If she struggled with that in the past, nobody would know it now.
"Maya figured out she can trust herself, which is a huge stepping stone." said Libby. "She's always had the talent to do the skills. I don't think until this year she trusted herself in every circumstance that she can make it happen."
In competition this season, Wickus has been the picture of reliability, hitting 100 percent of her routines. Most recently, she placed third on bars with a career-best 9.875 in a meet with Southern Utah, San Jose State and Ball State (3/15).
So far in 2013, Wickus' most memorable moment has been clinching the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series for Iowa on Senior Night (3/8).
"Senior Night was unforgettable," said Wickus. "We were off to a slow start this season, but we built steadily. We set ambitious goals, and on Senior Night we accomplished two of them. We stayed undefeated at home and earned that 196-plus score. When I saw the scoreboard, I was overwhelmed with the outcome and couldn't believe it was my last time competing in Carver."
While Wickus works to establish Iowa as a threat in the Big Ten conference and lead the team to its sixth consecutive NCAA postseason appearance, she also has an eye toward her future outside of gymnastics.
"I'm looking forward to using the work ethic gymnastics has taught me and pursue a career in something else that I love," said Wickus. "No matter what, I still want to stay involved in sports. I'd like to aid in other athletes' success through marketing and event management. I hope to stay in Iowa next year to gain experience and give back to my athletic department.
"Here at Iowa, I learned that if you surround yourself with supportive people, you can achieve anything."