Team-First Approach Leads Pedrick to Post-Collegiate Success

During the 2017 season’s postseason, gymnastics fans were treated to then-freshman Denelle Pedrick’s NCAA championship appearance on vault. She’d qualified to do so representing Central Michigan by sticking a double-twisting Yurchenko cold at regionals, a rare vault in college even in a post-Olympic season. The next three years would see her rise into a consistent all-around role—with event highs over 9.900, an all-around high of 39.525 good for the top 20 nationally, and becoming the first Central Michigan gymnast to twice earn MAC Gymnast of the Year honors. 

Originally hailing from the small yet supportive hockey heaven of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, she’d represented Canada under the governing body USports at the Universiade (colloquially known as “FISU Games” or “Student Games”) in 2017 and 2019. In her first of two Universiade experiences, she’d helped the Canadian delegation to a team silver alongside two gymnasts who’d stayed in Canada for their undergraduate degrees and two who’d ventured south for NCAA gymnastics. While FISU competition typically serves as a stepping stone for collegiate athletes to then roster for their respective national team, this pacing schedule is rare for gymnasts. Pedrick’s senior year saw sports grind to a halt in March, which pushed her (along with the entire class of 2020) into an early retirement—or so the gymnastics world had thought. 

While fans of collegiate gymnastics are accustomed to seeing their favorite names compete for four months annually, Canadians were treated to watching Pedrick perform through the spring, representing Team Saskatchewan at level 10 nationals—nearly sweeping the events en route to an all-around title in 2017, and leading the province to a team silver ahead of powerhouse Team Ontario in 2019. Her lengthened competition schedule made Canadian fans hopeful for a post-undergrad comeback and a push back into elite, but with the pandemic and a national team picture that’d looked the same all quad, nothing was certain. 

Five months into the pandemic (and out of gymnastics), Pedrick moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to continue training at Alta while pursuing a Masters of Kinesiology from Dalhousie University. A small yet well known club on Canada’s east coast, Alta and its staff have a national reputation for pacing elite athletes well into their 20s. The team-first attitude at Central Michigan still rang true competing under the leaf, but Pedrick noted, “the biggest change in training was needing to be extremely self-motivated…training with only a couple other athletes at my level was the toughest adjustment.”

Going from a team of more than 18 athletes at Central Michigan back into the Canadian scene, she brought with her the mindset of doing your job on the team. Using that experience from NCAA, elite competitions have become more lighthearted and enjoyable.


Along with learning to adjust back from college to club training, she’d learned a new skill and inked her name into the FIG Code of Points. The Pak salto out of a free hip now bears the Pedrick name, one she noted “started as an accident, as many new skills do.” It initially began as a free hip back tuck dismount that wasn’t clicking, and became somewhat of a blooper reel sent back to her family. From that video sent as a joke, her sister thought the skill was supposed to be from high to low, prompting Denelle to call her sister’s bluff and actually train it as a transition. The Pedrick was debuted at Canadian nationals, named at Pan American championships, and now holds a provisional C value. 

Armed with her team approach in her return to elite gymnastics, Pedrick, along with the rest of the Canadian team, bought into a strategy that’d prioritize qualifying in the top eight at the world championships, and hitting all 12 routines in the team final. She shares how goal oriented the team was before departing for Liverpool, affirming the team’s focus, trust, and support for one another were keys in seeing their goal through.

While she’d competed on vault, beam and floor in qualifications, her sole contribution in the team final was a near carbon copy of her signature double-twisting Yurchenko. Good for a 13.866, the back end of the final saw her focus shift from her own gymnastics to that of her teammates, staring down the barrel of their 12-for-12 goal. Pulling from collegiate experience, she shared,  “during beam, we were energetic and positive the whole time, while keeping the girls who were competing calm and focused. We knew what each teammate liked or disliked during routines, so we adjusted accordingly [to ensure] that everyone had their best performance.” It paid off, with that rotation seeing Canada complete the 12-routine goal and clubmate Ellie Black unveiling her own collegiate style celebration. 

Having now returned to Nova Scotia, Pedrick is faced with a few easier goals to tackle. First up? What to do with her yellow Lambanana. A “strange yet memorable item,” she expressed it could find a home with her MAC Gymnast of the Year trophies, since they’re part of a happy memory and should be visible as much as possible. Second? Deciding if a Summer Universiade hat trick is one to go for. After her first Universiade, being immersed in Taiwanese culture, sightseeing, and the hospitality still remain at the forefront of her gymnastics traveling memories. 

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Article by Peri Goodman

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One comment

  1. It’s been a pleasure to watch Denelle compete at each and every level. Sky is the limit for her. Gymnastics is her passion and she excels at it!!

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