Dream Big Profile: Carolyn Yernberg
"Never give up on your dreams and never underestimate who you are and who you could be." -Carolyn Yernberg
Yernberg has made sure to follow her own advice over the past couple of years, by becoming a record-holding gymnast at the University of Minnesota. Originally from Blaine, Minn., Carolyn started participating in gymnastics at the age of five and shows no signs of slowing down.
While participating in everything from basketball to powder puff football, Carolyn totally committed herself to gymnastics in high school, eventually finishing first on vault and bars in the Minnesota State Championships. With a successful high school gymnastics career and a 4.2 grade point average in hand, Carolyn had to decide if she would take her academic and athletic success to the next level as a student-athlete at the University of Minnesota. The decision to even make an effort was not easy.
"I wanted to attend Minnesota, for school first of all. I knew I wanted to compete in gymnastics, I just didn't feel done at all, there was so much left in me. I didn't know if I would be good enough, that was the main thing."
Carolyn definitely impressed the coaches with her skill and determination and managed to earn a spot on the team, beginning the challenging life of a college student-athlete.
"My first year was amazing. At first it was a little overwhelming, but the coaches and the team are just so cool and you learn to balance everything. The coaches are so understanding with school that it's never been an issue for me. It was so great coming into a team where everyone is just so amazing. It was really something to come in and see these girls who had these tremendous skills I never saw before. I had always been the oldest in my club; I never had anyone to look up to. So coming in (not being the oldest and most experienced) and seeing the girls that were really good was awesome."
In her very first year at Minnesota, Carolyn would accomplish an amazing feat that will definitely make her someone that future Gophers will look up to. On March 3, 2002 at UCLA, she scored the first perfect 10 in vaulting in Minnesota school history.
"It didn't really register right away. I think it registered to my team before it did to me because they were all just ecstatic and I didn't quite understand because I wasn't fully aware of the school's history. After they told me, I thought it was really cool. I don't know if it was quite worth a 10 but I'll take it!"
While that perfect 10 will definitely be one of her greatest accomplishments, Carolyn continues to be successful in gymnastics. In last season's Big Ten Championships, she was Minnesota's top vault scorer with a 9.775 and won vault titles in dual meets against Ohio State, UCLA and Michigan. In a recent tri-meet hosted by Illinois, she won a couple of individual titles with her performance on the floor exercise and the vault. She hesitates to place tremendous focus on her individual accomplishments, wanting nothing more than for her team to take a trip to Nationals this year.
Along with the upbeat, positive attitude driving Carolyn to both enjoy and be successful in gymnastics is an awareness of the problems that still face women in college athletics.
"I think people basically still underestimate female athletes and don't realize the potential that we have. The coaches and the schools aren't the problem, there are just fans and even other athletes still not fully appreciating and recognizing that women's sports are exactly the same as the men's. As far as how we've been treated, I think Minnesota does an amazing job with that, treating all athletes the same whether they're male or female."
Regardless of any student-athlete's situation, maintaining a positive attitude, working hard, setting goals and believing in what one can achieve is a recipe for success. Carolyn Yernberg, only a sophomore in college, explains the benefits of being an athlete and dreaming big.
"What participating in sports does for you mentally and physically is hard to put into words. For me personally, I never would have dreamed that I would be where I am now, doing the things that I'm doing. Never give up on your dreams. It doesn't matter how old you're getting or if you feel like you're not quite there, keep pushing through. A lot of gymnasts hit that point where they feel like they're not getting better and it's so hard. I would say to them and anyone else, just push your way through that struggle. Once you get through it, you won't go anywhere but up."