Serena Baker has always had the right temperament to succeed in gymnastics, her coach says.
“She’s steady,” said Dave Brubaker, of Bluewater Gymnastics. “She doesn’t get rattled … she doesn’t get nervous.”
Those qualities will serve Baker well as she moves to the next stage as a college athlete at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
Baker received a full scholarship to the Division I school. The 18-year-old Northern Collegiate graduate is enrolling in a four-year Kinesiology program.
A U.S. college scholarship is something Baker has thought about for some time, she said.
“Since Grade 8 or 9 I knew a scholarship was my long-term goal,” she said. “Then in Grade 11, I decided … I knew for sure that I wanted to continue. I didn’t want to be done with the sport yet.”
Baker visited Chicago earlier this year and described the school as “amazing.” She also took in a Central Michigan training camp but opted for UIC.
“The campus was great, the coaches were nice,” she says. “I knew I wanted to go there.”
Brubaker said they contacted 62 schools and, at one point considered the University of Alaska.
But Chicago is within reasonable driving distance for family to visit and watch Baker compete, and her routine and skill level are well-suited for NCAA competition, Brubaker said.
Baker will need to make adjustments, however. During her time at Bluewater her schedule involved training for weeks prior to competitions spaced throughout the season.
The university schedule is different. The first half of the year is largely training. Once the competitive season begins in mid-January, there is a competition almost every weekend – although not all gymnasts on the team compete each week.