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CAST 50×50: Samantha Ward, School of Kinesiology and Recreation

Senior gymnast and exercise science major Samantha Ward

Senior gymnast and exercise science major Samantha Ward

The College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) at Illinois State University is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. This series, CAST 50×50, is designed to highlight 50 faculty, staff, students, alumni, and organizations within CAST that make the college special. These notable people will tell you that every day in CAST is a great day to be a Redbird!

#CAST50 is flying high with gymnast and School of Kinesiology and Recreation student Samantha Ward!

What is your major and minor, and what year are you at Illinois State?

I am a senior exercise science major with two minors, one in French and the other in psychology.

We haven’t interviewed a gymnastics athlete yet! Can you tell us what it is like being a gymnast and a student?

Gymnastics is a year-round sport so it keeps you busy in-season and during off-season. In our off-season we mainly focus on building and improving our strength and power, which includes a lot of conditioning, as well as learning new skills and putting together your routines in the gym. We lift three mornings a week from 6:15–7:15 a.m., and complete three 30-minute cardio sessions on our own throughout the week. We also have two mandatory practices from 3–5:30 p.m. and two additional optional practices from 3–5 p.m. during the week.

Samantha Ward performing her routine on the uneven bars.

When we are in-season we are usually more focused on fixing the details and improving the consistency and refinement of our skills and routines. We lift three mornings a week for one hour and practice five days a week for three hours each. We also travel and compete every weekend from January until the end of March! A typical day in season would include a weights session in the morning, going to class, then practicing from 3 to 6 p.m., and then heading home for dinner and working on homework. A lot of the girls on our team also have to fit in study center hours, rehab and various academic and athletic meetings throughout the year! As you can see, it gets pretty busy!

Gymnastics is a physically and mentally demanding sport. Where (or who) do you draw your inspiration from?

I draw my inspiration and motivation to do gymnastics from my coaches and teammates. Sometimes you are physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the week and practices seem impossible to get through. You can usually tell on these days when the gym gets a little quieter, because everyone is very focused on their assignments. I know that if I’m having a rough practice or need a little extra motivation, I can always count on one of my teammates or coaches to give me the extra encouragement that I need to finish practice with a smile! We also try to keep our practices upbeat and fun by cheering each other on and keeping a positive attitude in the gym! Two of my favorite quotes that keep me motivated are “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”—Babe Ruth. And “Be the reason someone smiles today!”

If you were not a collegiate gymnast what other sport would you be playing? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

If I was not a collegiate gymnast, I would probably like to try pole vault. It seems like a really fun sport, and I love flying through the air! In my spare time, I like to bake and cook, and spend time with my teammates!

What is your favorite part of being an exercise science major?

My favorite part of being an exercise science major is gaining hands-on experience in the Exercise Physiology Lab, as well as performing research projects with the professors. I also enjoy learning about biomechanics and the anatomy and physiology of how the human body works. I would like to pursue a career in physical therapy, where I would like to work with athletes and the general public!

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