With the 2017 US Collegiate National Championships being this weekend, I thought I would share one of my favorite experiences from being part of the US Collegiate Team.
In 2015, I went to Collegiate Nationals representing the Utah Valley University Taekwondo team, and I won Gold in my Finweight Sparring division.
This was a huge thing for me as it qualified me to represent the US at the 2015 World University Games in Gwangju, Korea. (If you want to watch my Collegiate Nationals video/fights, CLICK HERE) The Summer University Games is a world-wide multi-sport competition for college athletes. It’s like a college version of the Olympics! I was so excited about this, because I’d heard it’s an incredible experience and awesome competition. All the hard work and training I’d put in to succeed and make the team had paid off! However, I knew I’d have to train even more than I already was in order to be prepared to represent the US well.
A few months later, it was time to go to the airport and start my University Games adventure. Amazingly, my boyfriend, Jared Reed, had also made the Collegiate National team, so we were lucky enough to share this experience together.
We started our journey at the SFO airport, where we met up with some of our friends who had also made the team. The flight to Korea was long- I dread this flight every time I have to go to this part of the world. I believe it’s about 12 hours of sitting on a plane watching movies and sleeping while trying to accommodate for the time difference and jet-lag. However, it was all so worth it!
We landed in Korea excited about the next two weeks we’d spend enjoying our Taekwondo dreams. Once we were arrived, we had to take a long (maybe 3 or 5 hour?) bus ride over to Gwangju. By the time we arrived, we were exhausted and ready to go to bed. The cool thing about University Games, is ALL the athletes from ALL different sports from ALL the countries of the world stay in a village together. We found our roommates and went to bed excited to rest for all the next day’s adventures.
The next morning we woke up and were ready to go to explore!
We took too many pictures and had so much fun exploring. Oh! One more cool thing is that in the village, we had this cafeteria where all the athletes would eat at. It had so many types of food and was open 24/7. I’m pretty serious about food so this was like a dream for me! Haha.
However, I had to remember that I still had to fight and weigh in, so my meals up until the day of my competition looked like this:
Now, before this sounds like just a fun vacation, we were there to seriously compete. We had workouts all the time to prepare. We even had a chance to cross-train with a local Korean team.
The Korea weather was hot and workouts were long, but everyone worked together so positively that it was all fun.
The first big event we participated in was the Opening Ceremonies. This was AMAZING!As you can see on the picture, we were decked out in USA gear. Oh yes- that’s another cool thing. When you make US Collegiate Team, you get a bunch of USA apparel! We were given USA shirts, hats, sweatpants, shorts, and jackets.
Since it was the opening ceremonies, all the US athletes were dressed alike and we even had red, white, and blue beads and flags to carry. It doesn’t get any more patriotic than this! Haha.
Before the Opening Ceremonies started, all the teams from all the countries had to hang out on this giant field waiting until it was our turn to make an entrance. I loved meeting people from different countries and seeing what they all wore to represent their cultures.
And then it was time for our grand entrance.
There were lights, cameras, a crazy cheering crowd from the stands, fireworks, and so much exciting. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
And then it was time for the competition! It was a week long event, starting off with Poomsae. We cheered for our US Poomsae team & still kept up our sparring prep each day.
I was one of the first days to compete for the sparring team, and I won my first match against PUR. Unfortunately, I ended up losing in Quarterfinals against the eventual Gold Medallist from THA and I ended at 5th Place. After I competed, I was a lot more relaxed and I got to cheer on the rest of Team USA from the stands.
Jared won his first match against Argentina, and then lost a great fight against Turkey. Funny story- he injured his hand while fighting his first match. It was huge and swollen, but he wanted to keep fighting so he did, and we later found out he had broken his thumb! He went to the doctor and had it casted right away.
Although we didn’t get the results we wanted from our competitions, we had an amazing time and gained lots of valuable experience. In the end, it’s the lessons we learn and people we meet that matter- not the medals.
I absolutely love my Collegiate Nationals experiences and would greatly recommend them to any college Taekwondo athlete. If this interests you, but you’re not sure you can make it- don’t give up. At my first Collegiate Nationals, I lost my very first match. After lots of effort, I am now a 4-time US Collegiate National Champion & Team Member, and am now going after my 5th team this weekend!
It’s all possible, but you have to be willing to put in the work and effort.
Best wishes in your training & journey,