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The 2022 University of Wisconsin Oshkosh gymnasts have shown they have resilience to get up when they’re knocked down.

The team hopes to parlay that strength into a National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (NCGA) championship when they compete Saturday, March 26 in Ithica, New York.

“Two years ago we won our first conference championship since 1996 and then everything got shut down,” recalled Lauren Karnitz ’06, ‘12, head gymnastics coach. “It was absolutely heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking as a coach but also as an alumna. We have now been able to take back what COVID took away―the opportunity to compete in a National Championship at Ithica College with a team that absolutely has an opportunity to win.”

The Titans captured the 2022 WIAC Championship March 5―its second consecutive―at UW-Whitewater (above photo), and Karnitz was named WIAC 2022 Coach of the Year.

Four UWO athletes were WIAC All-Conference honorees and have been key contributors this season:

Emily Buffington

Emily Buffington, sophomore from Huntersville, North Carolina, won conference on uneven bars and vault and is a starter on floor exercise. Buffington earned the title of WIAC 2022 Gymnast of the Year.

Emily Gilot, senior from St. Peters, Missouri, placed second at conference on vault, was a starter on bars and past three-time All-American.

Rahdea Jarvis, senior from Brookfield, was second at conference on bars, a starter on floor exercise and vault and past All-American.

Trinity Sawyer, a junior from Alpharetta, Georgia, was fourth on floor exercise at conference, fifth on bars and a past All-American.

Karnitz said the team’s depth—the seventh and eighth spots that don’t get to compete are just as talented as the ones that are in the lineup. This pushes the athletes every day to be better and if someone has to sit out due to injury or illness then there is someone else just as talented that can step right in.

“This is the true epitome of a team—everyone working towards a common goal of being the best they can be to have an opportunity to win Nationals,” she said.

Baylee Tkaczuk competing for the Titans in 2018.

Capturing excellence

Baylee Tkaczuk ’20, former national champion and All-American gymnast, was a senior in 2020—the year they won their first conference championship in 24 years.

COVID-19 wiped out any shot that year at a storybook ending—an NCGA championship.

“It was absolutely heartbreaking to find out after conference, at practice one day that we would be done with the season. It was truly very hard for me to accept that I was done with my gymnastics career and my team that worked so hard did not get our shot to win nationals. I think one of the worst parts for me was that I didn’t know I completed my last routine when I did.”

The 2021 championship also was canceled due to the pandemic.

Fast forward to 2022, and Tkaczuk, who earned a degree in psychology in 2020, is a student nurse as she works on a degree in UWO’s accelerated bachelor’s to BSN option—and is an assistant coach for the team. Though her gymnastics ending wasn’t what she envisioned, she is grateful for an “amazing experience at UWO and the career I had. I am also grateful to have ended my career on a high note even though I didn’t know it at the time.”

Tkaczuk pulled herself up and is helping the today’s team do what her team did not get a chance at.

“This team right now is so talented and has worked so hard for this meet. I am just so happy we finally get to go to New York and show everyone what this team is made of!”

Tkaczuk said one of the “best traits” the team has, is holding each other up as a unit and moving through a meet not worrying about anyone or anything else.

“They are hungry for this national competition and they have all the tools to come out on top,” Tkaczuk said.

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