How have you changed/grown as an athlete during your time at Pitt?
Burak: I changed not necessarily work ethic but how much it matters to work hard for your team. I came from a gym that didn't have an actual team. I've changed in the way I practice so it's just not for me anymore, it's for my team. I'm one of the three captains this year. I try to be an effective leader through my actions academically, socially and physically in the gym. I'm trying to be the best role model I can be.
Do you have a favorite moment?
Burak: Winning the EAGLs Championship. Throughout the whole process, we didn't really expect to win it. But as the meet went on, we were getting closer and closer to winning. As soon as the last score went up, we were all crying - bursting into tears. There's a picture of me jumping up in to the air because it was just so exciting. It was a great moment to have with my whole entire team. We all worked so hard for it.
What does this experience mean to you?
Burak: It means the world. When I was little, I would come to the Pitt Gymnastics meets all the time. I'm a local kid, so this was the closest college gymnastics program around. I was somewhat serious about gymnastics when I was about eight, and my main goal in life at that time was to be one of the Pitt Gymnastics girls. I still have laminated posters and a scrapbook of the girls on the team with all of their autographs from when I was little, it's kind of embarrassing. I just strived to be one of them.
Now that I can say I am one of those girls is such a great feeling. One of my favorite things is to talk to the little girls, take pictures and sign autographs, because I know how much it means to them. That's what I love doing at the end of competitions.
How have you managed to be a leader of this team?
Pearson: As a leader, I feel like it's really important to establish a relationship with the girls, especially the new ones. Everyone is different, and these girls are new to the team, so I want to help prep the girls and let them know what we are capable of doing. We are EAGL Champs and we can do it again - it wasn't a fluke. Establishing that and the connection is really important. I feel like as a team leader, I've done a really good job at talking to the girls and constantly keeping them motivated.
Do you have a favorite moment or accomplishment?
Pearson: There is nothing like the very first time you walk out there as a Panther. As a freshman, the very first time you walk out on that floor is thrilling. My biggest accomplishment would have to be making it to regionals.
How have you managed to become a successful student and DI athlete?
Pearson: Academic Support and Life Skills combined. With both of those, I've learned time management. You have to know when it's time to turn on the brain for school and when it's time to go to practice. Life Skills put me in the position I am for my post-undergrad years. They've helped obtain me an internship with PNC which turned into a full-time job after graduation.
Main goal heading into final year?
Pearson: I want to enjoy everything. Every moment I want to take it in and not necessarily get upset that this is it, but enjoy it and be happy. I've come such a long way and have been doing gymnastics for so long, I want this to be my best season yet.
The season so far is going great. In the gym, we are ahead of any of the other seasons I've been here. We are a lot healthier and stronger than past years and our endurance is definitely up to par.