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Michigan State gymnast Sydney Hayashi: “This is where I want to be”

Honors Highlight - Sydney Hayashi

By Sloane Barlow

Now a fourth-year student at Michigan State and in the Honors College, gymnast Sydney Hayashi just completed her third season with the Michigan State Women’s Gymnastics team, where they earned the title of Regular Season Champs.

“Coming off a really good season last year, I felt like the expectations were really high—both from ourselves and from the outside world,” Hayashi said. “So as a team it was really important that we focused on our team cohesion and maximized our efforts in all areas.”

With the 2023 season beginning in January, the women’s gymnastics team started off in Alabama with a close meet, eventually coming out with a loss. But together they fought to the end, and from there they picked up momentum with routines coming together more consistently. Hayashi focused on training bars and beam, getting the chance to exhibition bars twice this past season.

One of the team’s most notable successes was hitting their program record, which was one of their big goals from last season. After multiple meets of high scores from several gymnasts, the Michigan State Women’s Gymnastics team won the title of 2023 Regular Season Champs after their meet in Illinois in mid-March.

‘It was lots of fun getting to just be out there and cheer on my teammates,” said Hayashi. “I didn’t actually contribute to any of the lineups like I wanted to, but I did get to go out there in exhibitions a couple times which was a great learning experience.”

Although the team had an impressive season, Hayashi had a difficult time since it was her first season back from an ankle surgery.

“I spent most of my pre-season just trying to get back into the gym, trying to get my skills back,” Hayashi said. “I was healed and healthy, but I didn’t have the training that my teammates had coming into this season.”

Despite the challenge of playing catch-up with her skills, Hayashi stepped up for the team in another way. She became a leader behind the scenes, helping form the team spirit needed to reach the success of the champion title. From practice in the gym, to lifting before 8am classes, to cheering on teammates at meets, Hayashi spent time supporting her teammates, pushing them to reach their fullest potential.

“One thing my teammates always tell me is that I’m really hard on myself,” said Hayashi. “But I look at that and the harder I push myself, the harder my teammates are going to push themselves. I’ve had multiple teammates comment on my work ethic and how it inspires them to push themselves in the gym, which fuels my drive to continue pushing myself.”

Hayashi first started gymnastics around the age of two in her hometown Columbus, Ohio. When it came time to decide on a college, Hayashi wasn’t sure she wanted to continue gymnastics as a collegiate athlete. But then she visited Michigan State.

“Walking in and seeing the family environment on the team is really what sold me,” Hayashi said, remembering her campus visit from almost four years ago. “I looked at that and I was like, I can see myself here and I can do that. I can be a part of that team.”

“I had visited a lot of other schools for gymnastics, but nothing was really screaming ‘I want to go here’,” she continued. But at Michigan State, she knew, “this is where I want to be.”

Being both a collegiate athlete and an Honors student can be a big-time commitment. But Hayashi balances both and finds it to be one of the best parts of her education at Michigan State. With practice 20 hours a week, including lifting and conditioning, and traveling for meets on the weekends, Hayashi has learned time-management skills and self-motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“I find times in the day where I have downtime, because I don’t like staying up late or waking up earlier than I have to in order to do homework,” she said. “It’s about finding those small one-hour windows, 30 minutes, or even just a few minutes before class starts to work on something.”

When Hayashi chose to join the Honors College, she was excited for the educational opportunity of more in-depth classes for her major in Kinesiology and minor in Health Promotion.

“I have always been one to say, ‘if I can do it, I’m going to do it’,” she said. “Although the Honors experiences add a little extra work outside of my normal schoolwork, I think it’s a really good program. It allows me to take my classes a step further and learn more about topics that I find interesting.”

Although Hayashi doesn’t plan to continue gymnastics after graduation, she is currently looking at becoming a physical therapist. This summer she has an internship with Peak Performance Physical Therapy to see if it’s something she wants to do for her future career.

In her free time, Hayashi is part of the Women’s Leadership Council with Athletics. “Even though I’m not a team captain, I do my best to be there for a lot of the underclassmen and I’m not afraid to speak up for the team,” she said. She also is a part of Best Buddies at Michigan State, an organization dedicated to helping children with special needs.

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