Rachel Hornung is a hard worker and a perfectionist. The two-time Junior Olympic National Championship qualifier in high school sacrificed many things for her love of gymnastics.
After accepting a scholarship to West Virginia, she got an opportunity to compete against some of the top schools in the country, such as Oklahoma, which won the 2019 national championship.
“It was definitely different from high school to college,” she said. “But the coaches are amazing and helpful. I have the best team. I’m friends with all of them. The upperclassmen were there for us if we needed anything.”
The transition to college can be difficult, but Hornung stepped in for a Mountaineers team that went 19-9 and finishd just outside the NCAA top 25 (27th).
“I think one thing that is a compliment to Rachel is she is a perfectionist inside and outside the gym,” associate head coach Travis Doak said.
“Academically, she did great. In the gym, she does great. She handled (the transition) with ease. I wish all of our incoming athletes could handle it the way she did. I think it speaks to her character.”
Hornung competed in three events for the majority of the season and also had an opportunity to compete in the all-around at Pitt. She went into NCAA regionals with a team-best 9.8 national qualifying score on the beam.
“Not only is she powerful with regards to gymnastics,” Doak said, “but she has a fantastic style.”
That style has earned her high marks on beam as well as floor routine and vault. In the offseason, she plans to work on bars, which could transform her into a complete gymnast.
“I’ll never forget the feeling of being on the floor and seeing my team standing there,” Hornung said as she remembered her first home match at the WVU Coliseum.
“Doing my floor routine, they’ve been there with me through it all. I’m really happy to have a team like this.”
Her next home match against Denver and Iowa State on Feb. 2 produced a season-best 9.9 on floor routine.
“Rachel just has the look, and she’s a fantastic competitor,” Doak said as he remembered recruiting her early in her high school career.
“That rare combination of flexibility and strength, it’s hard to find a gymnast that has the power she has along with that. That was the first thing that made her stand out.”
The freshman is taking some time to let her body heal as she heads into summer.
“Getting to compete in three events every meet was beyond what I expected,” Hornung said. “I definitely think I grew as a gymnast on floor and got a lot better. My freshman season exceeded all expectations”
Hornung also is a standout in the classroom, where she majors in exercise physiology.
Her early success was an affirmation of the hard work and her love for the sport.
“If anything, it’s gotten better,” said Hornung, who plans to spend half her summer with family in Pittsburgh before returning to Morgantown to train for her sophomore encore.
“I realized this is what I want to be doing. Even in the moments that it’s hard or you’re tired, I realized that if I wasn’t doing it, I’d be very sad. I love it so much and wouldn’t change what I’ve done for anything.”