It’s been a busy spring for senior Emily Repko. Just weeks before graduation, Repko and her teammates on the UB’s women’s gymnastics team won their fourth consecutive USAG Collegiate National Championship. During the three-day event, which had been hosted by UB and Webster Bank Arena, Repko had set a school record of 9.925 on the balance beam and came in third on the balance beam during the individual event.
Not bad for a young woman who had once been rejected by other college gymnastics programs.
“Coaches, they want the kids who are already good. I had a different set of skills. And there’s a code you have to follow. What I did wasn’t the norm. To them, that was not as easy to handle, I guess. They told me I wasn’t right for their team,” says Repko, 22.
But UB gymnastics coach Byron Knox took a look at Repko and saw promise and talent; it just had to be tapped. Four years later, much of them spent at early morning practices in Wheeler Rec, Repko and the rest of the Purple Knights have transformed into a national gymnastics force that’s seemingly unbeatable.
“When I got here,” says Repko, “I didn’t even know about national championships. I didn’t know what a conference meant. When you’re in club gymnastics, like I had been, you don’t have conferences. College was different. So, yeah, I wanted to win, but it was more for me proving that I was good enough. As the years went on, after we won the first [USAG title], it was like, ‘Oh! We can win!’”
Ironically, Repko, who is a native Gilbertsville, PA, had never heard of UB. It was her cousin who also is a gymnast, who suggested the University.
“She was like, ‘They have gymnastics. Why don’t we take a look?’ ” says Repko.
Repko called Knox and scheduled a visit. “What he said really caught my interest,” says Repko. “He wanted to teach us more. At a lot of colleges, you maintain whatever you’ve been doing. But I felt I had a lot more stuff I needed to learn. ”
Repko leaves UB with four national gymnastics titles under her belt, an equally impressive academic track record (she’s made Dean’s List two times), and plans to train teams of her own one day. She admits she is “ready to graduate,” but nevertheless sounds nostalgic as she talks about the future.
“Just being with the team everyday and having something to really work for that means a lot to you—once that’s gone, nothing else is as good. Well, eventually maybe. But I’m definitely going to keep in touch with everyone. We’re all very close. And I’m from Pennsylvania. I’ll be back to visit.”