Hannah Hitchcock looks to leave mark in final season

Hitchcock placed 10th on bars at the 2017 NCAA Regionals.

Senior Hannah Hitchcock poses after completing her uneven bars routine on Saturday, Jan. 13.

Easton Green

Senior Hannah Hitchcock poses after completing her uneven bars routine on Saturday, Jan. 13.

Erik Nelson

The 2004 Olympics was a big event for Hannah Hitchcock.

Hitchcock wasn’t competing in the games, she was watching them. She saw Carly Patterson win gold for the United States in the all-around exercise. After that, Hitchcock was inspired — she knew she loved gymnastics.

“I always liked being upside down. I always had a lot of energy,” Hitchcock said. “Gymnastics was the right fit for me.”

Now, more than 13 years after Patterson won gold, Hitchcock is trying to leave her mark at the Division I level. At the 2017 NCAA Regionals, she placed 10th on bars, earning a score of 9.850. She also recorded a personal best on bars at last year’s Big Ten Championships with a score of 9.875. The senior has higher hopes this year.

“The biggest goal is for our team to make nationals,” Hitchcock said. “I just want to compete [in] vault and bars [at the NCAA championships] and contribute the best I can.”

In 2015, Hitchcock did not compete because she was recovering from an ankle injury. Hitchcock said it was hard to be a spectator for one season rather than a gymnast.

“It was different, but it was rewarding to cheer my team on from the sidelines,” she said.

Senior Rachel Rowland met Hitchcock the fall before their freshman year and the two have been friends ever since. Their favorite hobbies include shopping and going to sushi restaurants. She said the two have never fought and Hitchcock remains a consistent part in her life.

“[Hitchcock is] known for a really good attitude and being a positive influence in every aspect,” Rowland said. “I enjoy that I have a person for everything. On a good day or a bad day, I have somebody to go to, and that really never changes.”

Head coach Jenny Hansen said Minnesota saw much potential in Hitchcock.

“We saw some abilities that she probably didn’t even realize that she had,” Hansen said. “She’s been key for us. [Hitchcock’s] been consistent and helping our team become what we are right now.”

Outside the gym, Hitchcock likes to ski and decorate cakes. Hitchcock is from San Ramon, California, and is a fan of the Oakland Athletics and the Golden State Warriors. She is majoring in elementary education and plans to attend graduate school one day.

Hansen said Hitchcock brings passion to the team.

“She loves gymnastics. She lives and breathes it,” Hansen said. “The team identifies with her and appreciates her passion.”