Mary Kate Chalmers (nee Farrington) was a member of the SEMO gymnastics team from 1994 to 1997. Chalmers remains the SEMO record holder on vault and is tied for the floor record with perfect 10s on both events. The 1997 team, which won the MIC conference title, scored a 196.025 against Iowa, setting a program record. That record has held for 21 years and remains the only 196.000 SEMO has ever tallied. Chalmers won the MIC vault title in both 1996 and 1997 and was a member of two SEMO teams that qualified to regionals (1995 and 1997). She was inducted into the SEMO athletics hall of fame in 2014.
Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.
College Gym News: What have you been up to since your gymnastics days? Are you still involved with the sport at all?
Mary Kate Chalmers: For the past 20 years I have done several things: worked at Disney World, worked with kids in residential treatment facilities, worked at the YMCA, coached gymnastics—which I still do a little—and now I own my own business.
I got married five years ago to my wonderful husband Joel and now have two wonderful little boys, Matthew and KJ (ages four and three).
CGN: You own the top five vault scores in SEMO program history, including two 10.0s. What vault (or vaults) did you perform? Had you always been a strong vaulter, or did something about the collegiate stage make it your best event?
MKC: I did a front handspring front with a half twist in the tuck position. I was always very strong on vault but coming to college and working out 20 hours a week versus 26 definitely made a huge difference! It also was nice having a facility where I could reach my best potential.
CGN: You also scored two 10.0s on floor and are the only SEMO gymnast to have 10.0s on two events. How did it feel to see those scores flashed? Do you look back on those routines now, years removed, and remember them having been special?
MKC: Oh my gosh when I saw the scores flash, I broke down in tears! It was the coolest thing ever. Any time a gymnast (collegiate or J.O.) scores one now, I relive that experience—EVERY SINGLE time. We had one of our club team kids (she was eight) score a 10.0 on vault at state, and I lost it. It’s so exciting to see. I remember the floor routine as being special, yes, because I choreographed my own routines as well as some of my teammates’, so that is very special. I am choreographing routines right now, and I incorporate a few of my old moves.
CGN: You were inducted into the SEMO athletics hall of fame in 2014. What was it like to be back in Cape Girardeau? If you had the opportunity to see the current gymnastics facilities, how were they different from what you remember?
MKC: Cape Girardeau is such a beautiful place, and I love going back there. It was very special because my son was just one, we had found out I was pregnant with our second child that day and I got to see some of my close friends and family from SEMO. It was very special. The current facilities are incredible. The girls deserve to have state-of-the-art equipment, gym and the locker room. It was very cool to see my name on one of them, too.
CGN: Looking back on your career, what is the accomplishment you’re most proud of?
MKC: Of course being the first to score 10.0s on not only one event but two is very memorable. However I’m most proud of what our 1997 team did: We broke and still hold that team record score. I’m proud to be a part of a group of women that truly acted as a family inside that gym. That’s why we did the things we accomplished.
CGN: The current situation at SEMO feels a little tenuous, with no official head coach named—though Brittney Emmons seems to have done well as acting head—and high assistant turnover, plus a recruiting pipeline that is struggling a bit. We would hate to see the program at SEMO falter; as a gymnastics alum, how do you think the program will pull through? Has it been challenging to watch the developments from afar?
MKC: Honestly, it’s sad! Our coach Bill Hopkins really built a great program and Tom Farden (as well as Kristi Ewasko) continued to do great things. I don’t know details about what is going on, but it would be devastating if the program was gone. I truly hope they find a solution because SEMO was one of the most special parts of my life, and college gymnastics was one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve ever had.
CGN: Has your career as a collegiate athlete had a long term impact on the rest of your life? How?
MKC: Of course it’s had a long term impact on my life, both in very positive ways and some negative. The negative was basically not knowing who I was or what to do with myself after gymnastics was over; I really struggled with that. However, it’s helped me become very coachable and teachable in life, especially my business. All of the experiences I’ve had has also helped me to coach and work with kids in a way that I can guide and mentor them into being the best version of themselves. Gymnastics isn’t just a sport, it helped mold me into the woman I am today. It’s a family.
Article by Emily Minehart