After Monica Durham raised her hands in the air to cap her successful vault at the 2012 National Collegiate Gymnastics Championships in Brockport, N.Y. this past March, she knew it was good. She just didn’t know how good it was.
“I looked over at my coach, Jeff Schepers, to find out,” explains Durham, a sophomore from Catonsville, Md. “All Coach would say was that it was good enough to make me an All-America.”
Though she had to wait and watch six more nail biting vaults from other finalists, Durham’s 9.6000 was strong enough to crown her the national champion. She became the first gymnast in Ursinus history to ever win a national title in the vault.
“She cried immediately when she found out,” says Schepers. “There is just so much pressure on these girls, and when it’s finally released, all their emotions just pour out of them.”
Durham, a psychology major who hopes to work as a therapist one day, is already in touch with her own thoughts and emotions.
“I’m the type of gymnast who overthinks everything,” she admits. “I give myself detailed instructions before each and every event.”
Durham grew up in Baltimore and began competing in gymnastics by age seven. She joined Docksiders Gymnastics Club at age nine and progressed to a Level 9 gymnast by her senior year in high school.
“My mom said that I was just as likely to be found on top of our swing set as I was to be swinging on the actual swings,” explains Durham about how she got started. “I was drawn to the sport because I was good at it. In gym class, I had trouble catching and throwing tennis balls and dodgeballs, but I always knew how to do a handstand.”
This past season, Durham was one of only two members of the Ursinus team who competed in the All-Around event all season long. As an All-Arounder, she competes in all four events at every meet: the vault, the balance beam, the uneven bars, and the floor exercise. (She qualified for Nationals as an All-Arounder, but only made it to the finals in vault).
When Durham was selecting a college, she knew she didn’t want to become a gymnastics specialist. She visited Penn, Cornell, and Ithaca College, but those coaches told her she’d have to focus on one or two events — Durham wanted to do them all. At Ursinus, she has been an All-Arounder since the moment she joined the team as a freshman. She relishes competing in all four.
“ I’m one of those people that doesn’t like to give up any opportunity or waste any gift that has been given to me,” she says. “If I am physically able and willing to do all four events, why not?”
Durham has been named co-captain of the team for next season with junior Erica Schnebel. A rarity for a junior to be named, Schepers is confident this is the right decision.
“Monica has shown an unbelievable dedication to the team and the sport,” he says. “I can’t think of a better captain. She has so much ability and talent that has blossomed at Ursinus. She is already a 100-percent better gymnast than when she first arrived. She’ll only continue to get better.”