Anna “Willy” Willette, an Eastern Michigan University sophomore, has traveled from Pylesville, Md., to accomplish her goals of becoming a gymnast.
“It was a goal that I had since middle school,” Willette said.
She began doing gymnastics at age 2 and since then her passion has only grown. It was fueled by the trampoline Willette received when she was 5 years old and progressed further when she began to compete three years after that.
Her competition began with the basics and progressed onto joining club teams and competing across the country.
During her high school years, Willette competed through the Hartford Gymnastics Training Center in Maryland. The motivation to compete at the collegiate level came from a previous coach and the older gymnasts at her gym.
When the time came to continue her career, Willette was approached by schools across the country.
“I just wanted a spot,” Willette said. “I just wanted to do gymnastics.”
EMU coach Steve Wilce said Willette was on her way to visit Michigan State University when she made a quick stop in Ypsilanti.
“The campus was really pretty,” Willette said about EMU. “I liked how compact it was. I liked everything about the school.”
After meeting with the coaches and touring the campus, Willette decided to represent the Eagles.
“She’s awesome,” Wilce said. “She’s one of those kids that competes very calm and cool; things don’t seem to rattle her.”
The added bonus was that the EMU coaches resembled her previous coaches.
“They are not laid back, but not really strict,” Willette said. “It felt like home.”
As an only child, Willette was welcomed into not only a team but a family. Thanksgiving her freshman year, she was ready to go back to Maryland, but once home Willette was ready to come back to EMU.
“You spend all your time with the team,” Willette said. “They dedicate their lives to gymnastics and I really appreciate that.”
Willette also added an entirely new team aspect to her gymnastics. In high school, gymnastics is very individual but it is the opposite at a university.
“It’s all as a team,” Willette said. “You perform as a team. You represent a college.”
This may have added stress for some gymnasts, but Willette was ready for it.
“It’s a lot of fun. It feels good when you do good,” she said. “They [are] also very motivating when you lose. The team is always behind you.”
Now that Willette is in her second year at EMU, she’s started to get the hang of things.
“Now I know what is expected of me,” she said. “I know what I’m supposed to do.”
Willette has found her niche in becoming a role model for the new freshman.
“I try my best to guide them and put all the effort in,” Willette said.
With all of the hard work and effort Willette puts in, the sport can be very frustrating. Even with the love-hate relationship, Willette said she would never want to give up.
One of the hard parts to the sport is the attendance. Not many people attend the meets.
“I know a lot of people don’t see it,” she said about the sport. “They don’t know when they are or even understand [the sport].”
Many people see one extreme or another—the Olympics or cartwheels.
The season has drawn to a close, but readers can head to a meet and watch Willette next year as she tries to best her accomplishments from this year.
Wilce believes she’ll have a really nice career, but he is eager to get her in the floor line up.
“She’s the kind of kid that represents our university very well and we are happy to have her,” he said.