Sept. 27, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. -
Each week, Stanford women's gymnastics will highlight an alum for Throwback Thursday, which debuts here.
The first to be featured is Keri Monahan '98, who was a member of Stanford's 1998 Pac-10 championship team, the first conference title for the program in 16 years.
Monahan was a human biology major and earned Scholastic All-American honors in 1998. She earned All-Pac-10 honors in the all-around and was a three-time team MVP.
Here is her conversation with team manager Tori Lewis:
Tori: Can you catch everyone on up on what you’ve been doing since you graduated from Stanford?
Keri: I graduated in 1998. Since then, I got a masters degree at Drexel University in Philadelphia in public health. Then I worked in a couple of different clinics for a few years. Then I went to the University of Pennsylvania and just finished my Ph.D. in sociology in 2011. Guess that takes up most of the stretch between 1998 and now!
Tori: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Keri: I would say the Ph.D. It took me 6 1/2 years, which is about average, especially in a qualitative discipline like sociology. It was a long road and there were times I thought I wasn’t going to make it. But I did finally finish, which I guess makes that my greatest accomplishment so far.
Tori: What life lesson has stuck with you from your time in the gym?
Keri: That’s a really good question. In my Ph.D. dissertation, I asked that same question to a lot of people. I talked to about 30 ex-gymnasts who competed in the elite program in the 1980s and 1990s. That’s a question that I’ve thought about a lot but that I haven’t thought about so much for me personally. I think the short version is all the things that anybody gets from sports: perseverance, time management, learning to set small goals and chip away at a big goal. The other part of it is that there’s an identity that goes with being a gymnast and training really intensely at any activity at a really young age. I think that has lasting effects on a person’s life. I think people who did high-level gymnastics from a very young age, we see the world differently than our peers and we look for balance in our adult lives because we had this really intense experience at a young age.
What’s your favorite memory from SWG?Keri:
My last home meet senior year. It was in Burnham Pavilion and we competed against University of Utah. We’re always very, very competitive and we upset them. It’s one of the most memorable moments of my life. The crowd was awesome. Burnham is smaller and it felt like the crowd and our team filled up every inch of air in the room. Running off the floor after my last floor routine -- it was my most memorable night.
Tori: What do you miss most about your time with SWG?
Keri: Being part of a team. Gymnastics is mostly an individual sport until you get to college and then for four years, it was really the only time in my life where I had a whole team of 12 people plus coaches who are there to support each other every minute of every day. We’re all in this together. I really miss having that kind of closeness and camaraderie. You just don’t get that as readily in the real world. And I miss competing! It’s kind of a lesson as I get older. There are days when I hear a certain song and I just want to throw on my leotard and kick some ass! You don’t really get that many opportunities to do that in real life.
Tori: How have you stayed connected to Stanford post-graduation?
Keri: It’s a little harder since I’m on the East Coast. I hung around for a year after graduation and was pretty involved with the team. Since then, it’s been a little more difficult. Two of my Stanford teammates live in the area, and I see them a lot, so I guess that’s really my connection to the team. I haven’t gotten out to a home meet since that first year and I’m really hoping to do that at some point!
Tori: Do you have any other thoughts or reflections about your time on the team?
Keri: The years that I was on the team were really building years for the program. We had three different head coaches in four years and I think the University was intentionally changing things and trying to find something that worked. As athletes, we really felt that. In some ways, it made our experience more difficult. But I like to think that some of those rebuilding years laid the foundation for the success that the team is having now. I’m proud of that and maybe consider myself to be a part of the beginning of how the team is now. I hope the teams now remember us. I’m proud to have been a part of that at the very beginning.
Tori: Do you have any advice for the current athletes?
Keri: I could talk for days about stuff like this! Enjoy every minute of it, it goes so fast and you’ll never have an experience like this again. Also, I think a lot of gymnasts have a lot of difficulty transitioning out of the sport, even though college seniors are kind of ready to move on, at least age-wise. But even so, I think emotionally gymnasts have a really hard time moving on. I would encourage them to not ignore that. Talk about it with your teammates who are also leaving the sport, reach out to athletes, like myself, who have already graduated. We’re more than willing to talk to people transitioning out of the sport, to give advice about the hurdles that are being thrown your way. The tangible sense of accomplishment you get from a good workout is hard to come by when you’re doing things other than gymnastics. I really think staying in the network of ex-gymnasts is important.