MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - With West Virginia University’s 2014 spring graduation celebration scheduled for May 9-11, WVUSports.com will focus on a student-athlete graduation story each day this week.
This week’s third feature centers on WVU senior gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer. One of the program’s top gymnasts, Sloanhoffer enjoyed a storied 2014 season, as she individually qualified for the NCAA National Championships in the all-around, won the NCAA Athens Regional Championships balance beam title and took first place in the all-around at the Big 12 Gymnastics Championship in March, scoring the program’s first Big 12 title.
Sloanhoffer accumulated 1,876.525 points in four seasons with the Mountaineers, the fifth-best total in program history. An All-Big 12 gymnast, she ranks No. 2 in the WVU record book with 25 career scores of 39.0 or better and No. 14 with 12 career scores of 9.9 or better. She competed as an all-arounder 39 times, the ninth-best total in Mountaineer history, and saw action in 51 career meets, the 11th-best mark in the team’s record book.
Sloanhoffer balanced her athletic achievements with a brilliant four-year academic career. Now, without the daily grind of balancing gymnastics training and school work, Sloanhoffer must choose her next move.
What does one do with an abundant amount of free time?
Such is the dilemma West Virginia University senior Hope Sloanhoffer
now faces. Entrenched in the world of gymnastics at an early age, the Cornwall, N.Y., native cannot remember a moment when her day-to-day life was not strictly scheduled.
The last eight years have cycled on a repetitive loop for Sloanhoffer. As a student at Cornwall Central High, she would wake up, go to school, leave early and drive to Gymnastics Revolution Gym in Connecticut, where she would practice for several hours, then drive back home, where she would complete her homework and go to bed. Her time in Morgantown was spent much of the same, as she fit in training sessions at Cary Gym, strength and conditioning workouts and study hall hours in between a full course load in the exercise physiology program.
Now, after eight years of 24 structured hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year, Sloanhoffer will graduate this weekend from WVU and say “goodbye” to student-athlete status.
“My first day away from the gym, I sat around my apartment and didn’t know what to do with myself,” laughed Sloanhoffer. “This period is definitely going to be different, and I’m going to miss gymnastics. I make it into the gym almost every day to see the team, and hopefully I can continue that this summer. Thankfully, I have a full-time job that will keep me busy.”
That’s right – a full-time job. In between practices and competitions this past season, as well as study-hall hours that ensured she could graduate in four years, Sloanhoffer scoured the Morgantown area for internships in the medical field. She was hired by the WVU Eye Institute last week, and will begin work within their eScribe department on Monday, May 12.
“Essentially, I am going to shadow a doctor at the Eye Institute and help her with her documentations, making her job more efficient and allowing her to see more patients,” explained Sloanhoffer. “It’s a full-time job, but no patient contact.”
Plagued by an internal two-year debate between enrolling in medical school or physical therapy school, Sloanhoffer ultimately chose to take a year off following graduation. She believes her internship will help her settle into her future career path.
“I think it’s best for me to take this year off and make sure I know what I want to do,” the three-time NACGC/W Scholastic All-American said. “Working under a doctor is a great opportunity. With my commitment to gymnastics, I’ve never had the time to shadow doctors or physical therapists. This is my chance to see what those in the medical field do, day-in and day-out, and make sure this is something that I really want to do.
“It’s definitely scary not knowing what I’m going to do with my life long-term, but I’m excited for this opportunity. I really wanted this job. I applied for it a few months back, and I didn’t think it was going to happen. This puts my mind at ease for now, but I’m going to have to make a decision soon on which career path I want, because I will have to start the application process.”
While walking away from the sport she loves will be difficult, Sloanhoffer, the three-time Team MVP, relishes the chance for a year away from classes, books and studying.
“I’m looking forward to the break,” she sighed. “This semester of school has really pushed me. I’m excited to be done! I’ve talked to a few doctors, and they all told me they took time off before medical school and that it was one of the best moves they made. That made me feel a lot better about my decision. I think this break will be beneficial.”
Though her graduation gown is still sitting in its package on her dresser, Sloanhoffer is eagerly anticipating this weekend’s festivities. Her parents, Cordell Hoffer and Nancy Sloan, as well as her sister, Hayley and a family friend, will make the drive from New York this weekend to watch Hope walk across the stage and receive her diploma this Sunday at the Morgantown Event Center.
“My time in Morgantown has been incredible, and I feel like West Virginia University has done a great job of setting me up for my future. I feel that I am fully prepared to pursue whichever path I choose to take,” she said.
In a few months, Sloanhoffer again will overcrowd her desk with books as she begins the application process for either medical or physical therapy school. Though she will have a long list of achievements to pull from for her personal essay, a trait she should not shy away from highlighting is her time-management skill set, for she has proven time and time again that she can juggle many demands at once.
“Making sure I earned my degree in four years was definitely a challenge,” said Sloanhoffer. “Exercise physiology is a difficult major, and I maxed-out what you can do by going the health profession route and adding the aquatic emphasis. I made it a priority to graduate in four years, and I did whatever I had to do to make that happen. I had some tough semesters, but if you manage your time well, you can get it done. I think it’s been a really great four years.”
Above all else, Sloanhoffer swears she is walking away from WVU with a valuable lesson she believes will serve her for the rest of her life.
“I’ve learned to make the most of the opportunities that come my way,” she explained. “I think a lot of people don’t recognize what an incredible opportunity for achievement they have at WVU. I’ve seen students get pigeonholed into what they think they should be doing, instead of branching out and joining more than one community at school. That’s been really big for me, and I feel like I’ve hit my potential here at WVU.”