BOUNTIFUL - It was a beautiful goodbye.
Bountiful native Hailee Hansen, co-captain of the Utes Gymnastics Team and first-ever walk-on women’s gymnastics captain in the school’s history, said a tearful goodbye to the Huntsman Center crowd last Saturday in her final meet on the team’s home turf. Though she’ll compete with the team at the Pac-12 championships this coming weekend, the graduating senior felt the full impact of her last major Salt Lake City milestone.
“It was an incredible night for me and my team,” she said. “It was so much fun, and the energy of the crowd was so great. It was such a great way to end my journey at the Huntsman Center.”
Hansen, who went to Woods Cross High School, is also only the third walk-on in school history to earn All-American honors. Walk-on athletes are those who didn’t receive scholarships, which meant they had to earn their place on the team.
“Not a lot of people get to college gymnastics,” said Hansen. “When you get older your body grows and changes, and gymnastics is really hard on it. Not a lot of people finish it out.”
She got her start at the age of 10, which is comparatively late in a sport where many girls have already begun training by the age of 3 or 4. Hansen’s introduction to gymnastics coincided with her family’s move to Bountiful from American Fork.
“My favorite thing about gymnastics is the process,” she said. “It’s just so rewarding.”
Her preferred event is the uneven bars, which she’s competed in since she first joined the team four years ago.
“It’s always been my best event, even when I trained with the club teams,” she said.
She’s earned a 9.90 on the bars four times during her college career, the most recent of which was at last year’s NCAA championships. The secret, Hansen said, is to make sure to not let her body get too tense when she’s performing her routines.
“You just have to kind of let your body swing with the bars,” she said. “When you’re too tense, it’s not as pretty.”
Last Saturday’s meet against Georgia ended the team’s regular season with a high, with an overall score that surpassed 198 for the first time this season. Enough people attended the meet that the team also broke their previous NCAA season attendance record.
“We’ve had a great season,” said Hansen. “I think it will give our team the confidence to hopefully come out of the Pac-12 with the championship.”
Once this season is over, however, the mass communication major said that she might spend some time away from gymnastics for a while.
“It’s been a part of my life for so long, and I’ve loved every single second of it,” said Hansen. “But I might get away from it for a while, just to see what else is out there for me.”
Goodbye for now doesn’t necessarily mean goodbye forever, though.
“I might come back to it,” she said. “It’s something I’m passionate about.”