In the return of this ongoing series, FloGymnastics features collegiate gymnasts who are in their final season. First for the 2019 season is the University of Illinois at Chicago's Mikailla Northern.
Northern is one of five seniors on the UIC Flames squad and has been one of the team's top gymnasts since joining the program. For her first three seasons, she represented UIC at Regionals as an individual all-around competitor and qualified to NCAA Championships last year after a third-place Regional all-around finish. She's been named MIC First Team All-Conference multiple times after great performances at MIC Championships in 2016, 2017 and 2018, including winning the floor title last year.
In what is set to be UIC gymnastics' final season, Northern opened with a solid all-around performance in a quad meet versus Arizona State, Minnesota and Missouri. Northern scored a 38.8500 for third place in the all-around and a team-high 9.825 on floor.
FloGymnastics: What is your major, and what do you hope to do with a degree in that?
I am a nursing major, and I plan to take the nursing licensure exam right after I graduate this spring and work as a pediatrics nurse.
What has been your favorite NCAA gym memory so far?
My favorite memory is competing as the beam anchor in a quad meet in front of over 15,000 people at the University of Utah. While I was competing beam, Utah’s anchor had just received a 10.0 on floor. The energy from the stadium was insane and louder than I could ever describe, but I could still feel my teammates energy and support over it all. In that moment, I had forgotten what club gymnastics was and finally felt like a college gymnast.
What has being a UIC Flames gymnast taught you?
Being a UIC flames gymnast has really taught me to be confident, be myself, and that I can handle just about anything. With balancing 20 hours a week in the gym and nursing school, it has been tricky, but I am happy that I have gotten the most out of my four years and will leave with a degree and career in nursing, as well as unforgettable memories on the competition floor, and with a group of girls that I will always be able to call family.
What is your favorite UIC leotard you've gotten to wear?
My favorite UIC leo is our blue long-sleeved leotard with sparkling flames that go up around the torso and arms. We will also be debuting new leotards this Sunday at our home opener. Our coach is keeping it a surprise, but it’s possible that it becomes my new favorite!
What skill would you like to learn or compete that you haven't already?
I have always wanted to compete an E tumbling pass on floor. I was so close to competing my full-in double tuck at a couple meets last year and actually warmed it up, but we never wanted to take the risk of putting it into the routine.
What is your favorite thing about UIC?
My favorite thing about UIC is being in the city! Our campus is right in the middle of downtown Chicago, 10 minutes from the lake, just south of Greektown and basically in Little Italy. There is always something to do or somewhere new to eat.
What are you most proud of accomplishing at UIC?
After rupturing both Achilles’ tendons in high school, I am so proud that I have qualified to NCAA Regionals to represent UIC as an individual all-around competitor the three years that I have competed. On top of that, becoming the 2018 Midwest Independent Conference (MIC) Floor Champion, the 2017 MIC Athlete of Year, and 2017 Illinois Classic State All-Around Champion.
How do you plan on staying involved with the sport after this season?
Originally, I looked forward to supporting my Flames as an alumni and possibly as a volunteer coach, but with our program being dropped, that plan has switched around a bit. After season, I am just planning to take a little break from the sport and just see what else is out there since it has been all that I have known for the past 18 years. I have a feeling I am going to gravitate back to it after a couple months and pick up coaching club gymnastics again or find another college gym team to coach for.
Besides gymnastics, what are your interests/hobbies?
Besides gymnastics, I enjoy cooking for my family, listening to music, especially Beyoncé, and dancing with my teammates and friends.
As a senior, this was always set to be your final season as a gymnast, but how much more special or different is this season to you and the team now that 2019 is set to be the final season for all UIC gymnasts?
To be honest, it has not affected or changed how we go out onto the competition floor. We still hold the same vision and goals that we set out to do from day one of preseason, before the big announcement. It has fed into our motivation for the season as we want to prove that it was a mistake to drop us, but our coaches have helped us to shape our minds towards just trying to really take in and enjoy every moment together, and try to not focus on a fact that could change our mental game. The team has remained so positive and I am so proud of them for the way they’ve presented themselves, especially if we truly are the last UIC gymnasts.