Athletics The Scholar-Athlete
Gymnast Maria Hundley Completes Her Career With Seven National Titles
Maria Hundley is SPU's most decorated gymnast of all time
By Mark Moschetti | Photo by Andrew Towell
Maria Hundley (above) has won national titles in the all-around catagory, as well as vault, beam, and bars (below).
Watch video of Maria Hundley’s final bars routine.
The doctor’s orders to Maria Hundley were very strict:
Don’t do gymnastics. Don’t even think about it.
So for three months during the winter of 2015 while dealing with the lingering effects of a concussion, Hundley didn’t do gymnastics.
But think about it? Oh, yeah … she did plenty of that.
Each afternoon. In the gym.
“My only exercise was one walk a week — it was (driving me) insane,” Hundley says. “So every day, I would do a mental set or two on each event. The power of visualization, I believe in so greatly. I honestly just tried my best to stay in the gym and support my teammates through it.”
By early last spring in Philadelphia, she was back atop the awards podium, having successfully defended two of her three national championships.
“I think it was the fact that I stayed in the gym,” Hundley says. “It was the fact that I stayed mentally strong throughout all of that. It was just my love and passion of gymnastics and this team, and I was able to pull it off.”
Fast forward to early this spring when Hundley pulled it off again. This time, the setting was St. Charles, Missouri, where she captured her first all-around title, added her second vault title, and helped the Falcons post back-to-back school-record scores on the way to a third consecutive third-place team trophy.
Her final tally of seven national crowns tied her for the most decorated competitor in the history of the USA Gymnastics Collegiate Championships. She also won 12 All-American awards through her four years in maroon.
“Honestly, it’s an emotional thing,” Hundley says. “I’ve really struggled a lot on my journey through gymnastics. So it’s really awesome to be standing here right now.”
Hundley, a native of Littleton, Colorado, hadn’t seen Seattle. And longtime coach Laurel Tindall, the architect of SPU’s national-caliber gymnastics program, hadn’t seen much video of Hundley.
Ultimately, that didn’t keep them from committing to each other four years ago.
“Through high school, I had a lot of injuries,” Hundley says. “I was searching for somewhere that would take me. I had an old friend, Aditi Kulkarni ’12. She told me about SPU, and I contacted them. They offered me a spot to do gymnastics. I’m really, really thankful that they were willing to take that risk.”
Tindall is just as thankful, as Hundley has become Seattle Pacific’s most acclaimed gymnast. “We just felt like she had something to work with and had good basics,” Tindall says. “She definitely had the skills, and she’s very clean.”
Practicing on the vault one day in the fall of 2014, Hundley got too close before going airborne. While flipping over it, she hit her head.
Everyone took the necessary concussion precautions, and Hundley figured it wouldn’t be long before she was back. Instead, it became a three-month hiatus.
“I couldn’t even do cardio,” Hundley says. “I didn’t think I was going to compete at all. I thought I would have to redshirt.”
But by the time the Falcons flew off to nationals, Hundley was back in full force. She was a big factor in the third-place team trophy finish. Then in the individual finals, Hundley scored 9.875 on the bars and 9.90 on the beam, thereby keeping both crowns.
“I think it was a testament to both her athleticism and her mental strength to literally do nothing for months, then come back, and within weeks, really put together routines that were national championship caliber,” assistant coach Carly Dockendorf says. “Maria has been successful because she is probably one of the most determined, persistent people that I know.”
The 22-year-old Hundley finished her psychology degree during the Winter Quarter with a stellar 3.69 grade-point average. Her next goal is a master’s in social work, and she already has been accepted into the Teach for America program, with an assignment in Louisiana beginning in 2017.
Hundley’s feelings were bubbling to the surface as she waited to perform on the uneven parallel bars at nationals on April 10 — the final routine of her career.
“Even before I got on the bars I was getting emotional,” Hundley says. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to do it because I don’t want it to end.’
“I’m so, so thankful for my experience.”