Skinner to Leave NCAA in Pursuit of Elite Gymnastics Career

Women’s college gymnastics, while an often overlooked college sport, is home to many formerly-elite gymnasts who have left the USA Gymnastics arena in pursuit of a college degree.

Multiple members of both the Fierce Five, who competed in London in 2012, and the Final Five, who competed in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, which both earned Gold in the Team All-Around, are currently in the NCAA. UCLA has a particularly stacked roster, featuring gymnasts Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian and assistant coach Jordyn Wieber (who was recently announced as the new head coach of the University of Arkansas team). Former National Team member and Oklahoma Sooner Maggie Nichols is also a huge name in the league.

But one name that is often passed over made headlines this past week after a huge announcement that she would be leaving NCAA competition and instead be returning to elite competition, which is quite rare. MyKayla Skinner, a junior and member of the University of Utah Women’s Gymnastics Team, announced last Thursday, April 25, that she would leave the collegiate league to pursue a spot on the 2020 United States Olympic Team.

“In my three years at Utah, I have grown and matured as a gymnast, made improvements to my form and refined my technique. While I love college gymnastics, I’d like to try and compete for my country,” Skinner said in a statement posted on the Utah Gymnastics social media handles. “I see the opportunity to pursue an Olympic berth as a chance of a lifetime. If things don’t work out for whatever the reason, I plan to return to the University of Utah for my senior year.”

Skinner will participate in the National Team training camp in June alongside many other Olympic hopefuls, as she prepares for Olympic team trials, which will be held at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri next year.

During her NCAA run, Skinner won the individual title on floor in 2017 and vault in 2018. She was the NCAA all-around runner-up during both seasons and performs the most difficult skills on these events in the entire league.

Skinner is known for bringing an upbeat energy to all four events and has been called the greatest gymnast to grace the Utah Gymnastics program by coaches and the media alike.

This past season, this spirit and skill landed her team a fourth place finish in the semi-finals of the NCAA championships and helped the Utah Utes earn fifth place in the championships last season.

In the elite world, despite finishing fourth at Olympic Team trials in 2016, Skinner served as an alternate for Team USA, traveling to Rio only to sit on the sidelines.

I am personally not sure why Skinner would choose to move on after all her NCAA success and national fame. If Skinner has already reached national celebrity status, and can earn a college degree while doing it, why leave to put herself back in an environment where she never achieved success the first time around? All that said, who am I to tell her not to chase her dreams? She can finish her college degree any time but the Olympics only happen so often. I wish her luck and hope to see her on the Olympic stage in 2020.

Contact Julia Klein at [email protected].