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Extra season provides boost for All-American gymnast from Knoch

| Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
UM Photography, Walt Middleton
Michigan gymnast Natalie Beilstein, a Knoch graduate.
Michigan gymnast Natalie Beilstein, a Knoch graduate

Natalie Beilstein thought she'd have a four-year gymnastics career at the University of Michigan. With gratitude, she's enjoying one that's going to last five.

Beilstein, a two-time NCAA All-American and 2009 Knoch graduate, was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA via a hardship waiver.

Beilstein tore her Achilles tendon in the second week of the season during her junior year.

The injury enabled her to be eligible for a fifth year due to the time of the injury, which fell under the category of medical hardship.

“I was fortunate to get a fifth year because it doesn't always work out that way,” Beilstein said.

“Sometimes you may not have enough scholarships or there may not be space on the team.”

The injury didn't keep Beilstein's spirits down for long.

A mere couple of days had passed when she realized that since she was unable to compete, she could still play a big role on her team.

She provided support from the sidelines and acted as a role model to her teammates.

While competing in vault, bars and floor exercises, she experienced major success right out of the gate during her freshman year.

She earned her first All-American honors in vault.

She also was named NCAA Southeast Regional Floor Exercise champion and Big Ten Vault champion.

While she doesn't have any particular goals in mind, she wouldn't mind returning to the top of the Big Ten ranks with her team, and individually, during her final season.

Michigan began the season on Jan. 10 in a tri-meet against Illinois State and Iowa State.

The Wolverines placed first with a score of 196.25. Beilstein placed first in uneven bars.

“This year, I kind of just take every day one step at a time,” she said.

“Hopefully, I'll be able to win some individual titles at the Big Ten Championships, and Regionals and Nationals. I'm excited to see where the season takes us and where we go as a team. Hopefully, we go back to being Big Ten champions. I'm happy to be out on the floor and competing.”

Beilstein was on track to graduate after four years, but had to adjust her schedule after getting awarded the fifth year.

A sociology major, she is taking a three-credit class toward her major while enrolling in some other classes such as theater.

Beilstein estimates she practices about 20 hours a week with the team.

Gymnastics had been a big part of Beilstein's life, but this year will be the curtain call for her.

“I've been doing it for 21 years, and it's been a big part of my life,” she said.

“I'm excited to push forward with a new part of my life. I'm excited to do different things with my life than just gymnastics.”

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.

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