Jan. 16, 2013
There's little doubt that Kylee (Botterman) Kolarik is one of the most accomplished female athletes to ever wear the Block M for the University of Michigan. During her senior season in 2011, Kolarik became the third women's gymnast in the 37 years of the program to win an individual national title when she won the all-around at the NCAA Championships. That year, she also won the AAI Award (given annually to the nation's best gymnast), and was named NCAA Northeast Region Gymnast of the Year and Big Ten Gymnast of the Year, while leading Michigan back to the NCAA Super Six. In all, Kolarik was a nine-time NCAA All-American, five-time NCAA Regional champion and three-time Big Ten champion.
In the nearly two years since her graduation, Kolarik has gotten married (to former U-M ice hockey player Chad Kolarik), moved to Hartford, Conn., and took a job with the Big Ten Network, serving as an analyst for its women's gymnastics telecasts.
This Saturday, Kolarik returns to Crisler Center for the first time since her graduation, as she will help call the action on the Big Ten Network for Michigan's meet with Illinois. MGoBlue.com's Brad Rudner recently caught up with Kolarik to find out what her life has been like post-Michigan in this exclusive Alumni Spotlight.Q: You've been gone for almost two years now. Catch us up.
A: The biggest thing was getting married, which happened the summer after I graduated. My husband, Chad, currently plays in Hartford. Last summer, we built a house in Chicago, but we were only able to live in it for a month before we moved back out here. It's sitting there right now, waiting for us to come back in April. Looking forward to that.
Q: How did you get the gig with Big Ten Network?
A: They called me and said, "Do you want to do it?" and I said, "Heck yes!" It's a great way for me to stay connected with the gymnastics community.
Q: You were a pretty popular gymnast at Michigan and that success you had as a senior only increased your awareness. After you graduated, did you ever get noticed?
A: A few months after I graduated, I was asked to do a competition through International Gymnastics Camp in Pennsylvania called Evolution Week. There were some really great gymnasts at this thing, people that were on Olympic teams like Jonathan Horton and Chellsie Memmel. It was cool to compete in that even though I wasn't training. After the wedding and honeymoon, I had to go to the gym to make sure I could still do the skills. There was a producer there for the TV show "Make It or Break It" that was one of the judges. He came up to me and told me that I could be a stunt double. A couple of weeks later, I got a call from a producer and he asked me to come out to Los Angeles. It would have taken three to four months. I was totally considering it, but I just got married and I decided it wasn't the right place or right time. The Alpha Factor photo shoot was cool, too.
Q: During your four years, what would you say was the most fulfilling moment for you as a Michigan student-athlete?
A: There's so many to choose from. One of the biggest things I'll remember is how I overcame adversity. I had shoulder surgery after my freshman year, so recovering from that and getting back to the all-around was a challenge, but it was great for me to be able to work with Lisa [Hass] and see what she does as an athletic trainer. I wasn't the best student my freshman or sophomore year, but I made it a priority my last two years and I ended up being an Academic All-American, which is something I'm very proud of. As far as gymnastics goes, I would say making the NCAA Super Six and winning the NCAA All-Around title. That was the last thing that happened in my career so that's obviously going to stand out. All four years, all I wanted to do was help the team get to the Super Six. We had a really awesome night on the first day of Nationals and to be able to compete on the last day of the season with your team on the floor was really special and an experience I'll never forget.
Q: You were on two telecasts of ours last year, so you were able to see the team in action in person despite the fact it was a down year. It's a different story and the team is off to an extremely hot start through the first two weeks. You've been around the team and you've got some former teammates on the squad, so as a casual observer/alumnus, what do you see that's different?
A: It's cool to see the transformation. It's the same time from last year with a few new freshmen added in, but the performances are different. They look like a confident team. The attitude is different. You can kind of tell by their body language when they are out there competing. They have leaders, they have seniors and they are healthy. It's fun to see them doing so well early in the season. I also think that last year's experience really helped them out. They used it as motivation.
Q: Even if you aren't competing, how much are you looking forward to being back in your home gym?
A: I'm so excited! I'm not going to get a chance to go into the practice gym this time, unfortunately. My parents are coming up, who I haven't seen since the end of September and my sister (former Illinois gymnast Marijka Botterman) is coming, too. It will be great to see the fans and the girls. I texted them all and told them I couldn't wait to see them. I'm looking forward to seeing them compete in person.
Q: Crisler Center also looks quite different than when you were there last time.
A: I noticed that! Well, I knew that already, but from watching the webcast last week, I forgot it was all switched around. It's still the same team, the same fans, the same coaches.
Q: The gymnastics -- do you miss it?
A: 100 percent. I'm currently coaching out here at a gym near Hartford. It's a nice job. Again, it helps me fill that void. As much as I do miss it, there are times when I find myself doing things in the gym. I still have it!
Q: Last question. Describe how your experience at Michigan prepared you for life following athletics?
A: In so many ways. I feel like this is a cliché answer, but it's the people you meet. My husband, my teammates, my coaches, the trainers, the instructors... the list goes on. Knowing everyone and being in so many different situations, whether it was the best moment or the worst, you work through them and learn how to become a stronger person. It definitely prepared me. I don't know if coaching is what I want to do, but it's perfect for where I am right now. It's just so different not having those 15 girls around all the time.
No. 2 Michigan hosts Illinois on Saturday (Jan. 19) at 4 p.m. inside Crisler Center.