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Elise Johnson

"After a talk with my SNHU advisor, I enrolled in the online sport management and athletic administration program."

As a young gymnast, I was rising through the ranks of club gymnastics with great promise, but as my accomplishments grew in the sport, my passion for it dwindled. I finished third in the all-around at the 1999 Junior Olympic Nationals when I was just 13 years old. I moved up to the Elite level, making the Junior International Elite Team in 2000. It was a huge change and quite a shock for me. I felt really overwhelmed, and ended up quitting gymnastics at 14 years old. While attending high school, I was active in competitive cheerleading to keep busy, but stayed away from gymnastics for over four years. Then, as a student at community college, I started coaching gymnastics, and found my love for the sport once again. I got back in the gym, and this time the effort was purely self-motivated. I worked out for a few months, and for the most part got back all of my skills. I was definitely rough around the edges, but started talking to the college gymnastics coaches at Pennsylvania State, University of Washington, and Southern Utah University.

Southern Utah head coach, Scott Bauman, drove down to take a look at my skills. He was impressed with my performance, but more importantly saw potential in me. He watched my work out, and then sat me down and said he'd like to offer me a full-ride scholarship to Southern Utah University. That was my goal—to go to college. Gymnastics was icing on the cake. When I got to SUU, I was still trying to get back into competition-shape, and it was a tough transition. On our first day of official practice, we had our strength and conditioning coach come in and everyone was running circles around me. Once I began getting back in shape, my gymnastics began to flourish. In my first season in 2007, I competed in every meet as an all-arounder and was named Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and SUU Female Athlete of the Year. As a sophomore, I qualified for the NCAA Gymnastics Championships in the all-around and was named an NACGC-W scholar athlete. My junior year, I became the gymnastics program's first All-American, earning first-team honors on bars and beam and second-team honors on floor as well as NCAA North Central Region and Western Athletic Conference Gymnast of the Year. It was an amazing moment—to do that at a small school like SUU and as an individual competitor is virtually impossible. Being the first All-American gymnast at SUU was incredible, but more importantly it promoted our school and our program. It was neat to be the first, and I know there will be more to come.

During my senior year, I won the all-around in 10 of 12 regular season competitions for the Thunderbirds, was named SUU Female Athlete of the Year, NCAA North Central Region Gymnast of the Year, Western Athletic Conference Gymnast of the Year and posted the highest score in program history while ranking 10th in the nation. Coming to Southern Utah, I really found the love for the sport again and why I loved it in the beginning. It was a great experience to see a different perspective of gymnastics, being older and coming back to it. Ultimately, I want to be able to tell my story and offer that same experience to other aspiring student-athletes. After a talk with my SNHU advisor, I enrolled in the online sport management and athletic administration graduate certificate program.

My husband is currently serving in the United States Marine Corps, which brought us out to Japan in March of 2012. The flexibility and organization of SNHU’s online program is exactly what I needed while living overseas perusing my career in the field of sport management. I am currently the assistant athletic director at Marine Corps Community Services Iwakuni, Japan, and look to transition into athletic administration at the collegiate level when returning to the United States.