Nicole Pruchnik said that she was five or six years old when she first started flipping.
“I was a kamikaze — I just went,” said the 18-year-old Southern Connecticut State University freshman and graduate of Old Rochester Regional High School. “They would put me in the gym and I would just go. You just kind of fit. When you’re a gymnast, it just feels right. It doesn’t scare you, because it’s just what you do.”
Pruchnik recently earned Rookie of the Year commendation for the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference for gymnastics after last weekend’s finals, where she and eight other teammates also earned the right to compete in the USA Gymnastics Women’s Collegiate National Championships from April 12-14 in Shreveport, Louisiana.
She said that she started gymnastics when she was about four years old, but that her experience this year has been a “challenge” compared to all the years she spent practicing and competing locally.
“It was fun, if you want to sum it up in one word,” Pruchnik said. “It was kind of unexpected. Going into college gymnastics, it’s very, very different. You go from not having any team at all to having 20 other girls that have the same skills as me — cheering me on and trying to make me do better — everything is for the team now. It’s not all about you anymore. Everything you do affects the other 20 girls and all the coaches. And you have your school’s name written on you.”
Pruchnik also said that the experience has been “nerve-wracking, but worth it.”
At SCSU, Pruchnik said that she has a 3.3 GPA so far and that she has applied to the Athletic Training Program there.
At the ECAC finals last weekend, SCSU came in second place, and they broke the school record for the floor routine, as well as the school record for team total, which they had already broken at the previous meet.
Pruchnik, who won ECAC Rookie of the Week three times and won ECAC Gymnast of the Week once this year, regularly competes in three events out of a total of four: beam, floor and vault. She has qualified to compete in both floor and vault at Nationals. Out of seven freshmen on the team, three will be at Nationals, which she calls “huge.” She says that, of the three, the floor routine is her favorite.
“I have the most fun on floor. It’s not so much that you’re telling a story when you’re on floor, but you’re trying to engage everyone,” she said. “You’re trying to get the audience in and the judges into it. It’s more of the entertainment aspect of gymnastics.
Pruchnik said that she ran track freshman year at ORR, but couldn’t continue because she was too involved with gymnastics. She also said she really enjoys watching football.
“If I was a boy, and a little bigger, I’d play football.”
As far as the Nationals go, the event finals will be on Sunday night, which she hopes to be involved in. All-American commendations will be selected from this event. She also added that competing in Nationals is something she’d like to make a habit.
“I really would love to make Nationals all four years of college,” Pruchnik said. “That would be great. It’s a lot of fun. It is the last meet of the season. You go all out. You do what you know how to do and what you’ve done all year. The rest is up to the judges.”
By Nick Walecka