She couldn’t have imagined it any better
As her four years at the University of Florida come to a close, senior gymnast Samantha Lutz feels her life is just falling into place. Not only does she already have a job lined up after graduation, but Lutz and her teammates are traveling to Salt Lake City at the end of April to compete for a national title at the NCAA Championships. Even with finals and graduation quickly approaching, Lutz is staying as focused as possible on gymnastics.
“I know as soon as we get off that plane from NCAAs that it’s going to be craziness,” she said. “But I’m just trying to take it day by day and tackle things one at a time as they come at me.”
As if a shot at a national title and a college graduation isn’t enough, Lutz begins her new job May 21 in San Jose, Calif. She will be working as a marketing associate for Stryker Endoscopy and is excited at the opportunity. She said many of the other employees are young college graduates, and many are former athletes. She feels that common thread will help make the cross-country transition a bit easier.
Before she begins her new life as a UF alumna, Lutz said she still has things she wants to do in Gainesville before she leaves. She knows she’ll have to begin the long process of packing up and moving out virtually as soon as she gets back from Utah, but that doesn’t mean she won’t make time for her teammates.
“I want to spend a few days here with my teammates and with my friends in Gainesville, hanging out and doing fun stuff that we normally don’t get to do during the school year,” she said.
Along with all the other transitions in her life, Lutz said the toughest may be her time as a gymnast coming to an end. Lutz has set or tied one of her collegiate-best scores every year she’s been a Gator. She also put a new move, the full-in, back into her floor routine this season – a difficult skill she hasn’t done since high school. The move allowed her to break back in to the floor lineup, arguably the Gators’ deepest event talent-wise.
“For her to come back and to do it within a week and say, â€˜I can do this’ and do it and compete it at SECs for us and to help us win is just phenomenal,” Gators Head Coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It speaks volumes for her dedication and how talented she really is.”
“It’s going to be tough,” Lutz said of leaving the sport. “I feel I can still do it, that I’m still getting better even though I’m 22 years old. If I felt like I was burnt out and over-the-hill, it might be a little bit easier to let it go, but I don’t really feel like that.”
After finding out that San Jose State is less than 10 miles from her new job, Lutz said she is hoping she’ll have the time to get involved with the university’s gymnastics program. She is looking to possibly coach or judge â€“ anything, she said, to keep herself connected with the sport she loves.
She’s an accomplished student-athlete in and out of the competitive arena, claiming two All-America honors and earning a spot on the All-Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll in 2005, 2006 and 2007. She recently collected her third consecutive NCAA Regional uneven bar titles, sharing the 2007 title with teammate Nicola Willis. Lutz is one of the 2007 Gator team tri-captains and Faehn says her leadership has been key throughout her career.
“She’s going to be a great loss as far as her leadership and what she’s done for this program,” Faehn said. “Her representation of the Florida program in the classroom and as an athlete has always been very classy.”
As Lutz wraps up what has been an unforgettable four years at UF, she knows the memories will stick with her forever.
“It’s just been an unbelievable experience, and all the support and the love has been unreal,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to go through this any other place but here. I think there’s something really, truly special about this university.”
Feature by Erin Chenderlin, UF Sports Information