Full Story Support

"When I came (to Oregon State University) and saw everything, I knew that’s what I wanted."

Taylor Ricci
Exercise and Sport Science


When gymnast Taylor Ricci made an unofficial visit to Oregon State University in high school, she had only ever set foot on one other American college campus at a gymnastics meet at the University of Washington.

A teammate at Flicka Gymnastics Club where she trained in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, former Oregon State gymnast Laura-Ann Chong, told Ricci all about her college experience. Ricci’s trip to Corvallis matched what she had dreamed of, and left no doubt of where she wanted to attend college.

"When I came here and saw everything, I knew that’s what I wanted," Ricci recalled.

For Ricci, gymnastics was a means to achieving another dream, becoming a sports medicine doctor. But soon after arriving, she would experience a setback with the potential to jeopardize the athletic scholarship that paid her college tuition. She would have to fight harder than she ever imagined to stay on course.

Ask anyone who knows Ricci, and they’ll say she is one of the most driven, hard-working people around. That determination and self-motivation allowed her not only to stay in the sport she loves, but also to rise to the top echelon of student-athlete leadership, representing her sport, her school, her conference and Division I college athletes around the country.

Fast-forward to 2017, Ricci’s final season with Oregon State Gymnastics, and take note of her accomplishments. She kept her spot on the team and competed in championship seasons; received the highest student honor at OSU, the Waldo Cummings Outstanding Student Award, and is an Academic All-American; president of Oregon State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; Pac-12 student representative chairwoman; conference representative to the NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; on track to graduate in 2018 with a degree in exercise and sports science; preparing to take the medical school entrance exam this spring. Soon, she’ll join the ranks of former Oregon State gymnasts who’ve gone on to become successful businesswomen, teachers, doctors, lawyers, veterinarians and dentists.

ricci action

As a first-generation college student, Ricci has charted a path that no other student-athlete in Oregon State history has ever been down; one that will be held up as an example for others to follow for years to come.

Ricci is as comfortable in a medical office shadowing physicians who care for injured athletes as she is turning a double-pike to close out a pass on her floor exercise routine.

"She’s level-headed and thoughtful. You can see her think through problems," said Craig Graham, MD, a sports medicine specialist at Samaritan Athletic Medicine, also known as The SAM. "That’s pretty important in medicine."

Ricci experienced first-hand the calming reassurance from doctors, physical therapists and trainers who treated her and helped her recover from injuries she suffered as a gymnast. In high school, she had stress fractures in her shins from the repetition of practicing and competing in vault and floor exercises. Back then, her physical therapist would stay late so she could come after practice for treatment. She hopes one day to show that same dedication to her patients. She can convey genuine empathy because she knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a sports injury diagnosis.

Ricci participates in the medical careers pipeline program through OSU Athletics that provides mentoring, exposure and preparation to work in health care. She has done job shadows at The SAM, which serves the university community, Oregon State Athletics and the general public, and is a site for student internships, training and research.

Next fall, Ricci will take the medical school entrance exam, and apply to medical schools. The following spring, she’ll find out where she’s been accepted before graduation.

In the meantime, she’s preparing to assist Douglas Aukerman, MD, Director of Sports Medicine at The SAM, in a study aimed at helping overhead athletes (baseball, softball and tennis). Ricci feels fortunate for the experiences she’s had through the medical pipeline program and at The SAM.

"This is exactly what I want to do," Ricci said.

Story continues below...


The mission of the Everyday Champions Program is to develop student-athletes into individuals ready to excel in today’s competitive environment so they leave Corvallis educated, confident, connected and well-prepared for the personal and professional challenges they’ll face throughout their lives.

OSU has designed the Everyday Champions Program to facilitate the growth in the five areas designated by the former NCAA CHAMPS Life Skills Program: Athletic Excellence, Academic Excellence, Character & Leadership Development, Career Development and Community Service.

Support Everyday Champions

It’s easy for Ricci’s coaches and advisors to describe the characteristics that make her stand out: positive, determined, tenacious, stoic.

"She doesn’t take no for an answer," said Tanya Chaplin, head coach of OSU gymnastics team.

Ricci arrived on campus a starry-eyed freshman, enthralled by every aspect of being an NCAA gymnast. At Gill Coliseum, home gymnastics meets draw crowds between 4,000 and 5,000 loyal fans.

Ricci was an elite gymnast before coming to Oregon State, competing at the Senior High Performance level in Canada. When she arrived in Corvallis, she had to work even harder.

"The training is very different," Ricci said. "Instead of throwing the biggest tricks, we’re trying to make it perfect."

It can be a lot more difficult to make something perfect than to learn something new.

But Ricci almost didn’t get the chance to compete. Between her freshman and sophomore years, she grew five inches. The term growth spurt in gymnastics is usually accompanied by the words devastating, insurmountable or career-ending. The body is part of the apparatus you use, whether performing on floor, vault, beam or bars.

Ricci’s coaches made it clear there was no certainty in whether she could continue.

"Because of her growth spurt, she wasn’t able to do gymnastics like we recruited her to do," Chaplin said.

The skills she did before with ease now required more strength. So Ricci focused on conditioning.

ricci action

When faced with adversity, whether a growth spurt, an injury or academic struggles, coaches work with athletes to let them know where they need to be. Chaplin said there are times when people can’t overcome a challenge and give up.

Not Ricci.

"She did get frustrated. There was a period where it was questionable whether she was going to do it," Chaplin said. "But she didn’t let it break her. She kept working hard."

The success of Oregon State gymnastics is determined by the women who come out of the program, Chaplin said. To be an Oregon State student-athlete means to discover who you are and what you’re about, so when you leave, you can be successful in life, no matter what.

Chaplin tells her gymnasts to stay in the moment, focus on what they control, let go of what they can’t.

"Taylor does that very well. She could not control the growth spurt. But she had a choice to wallow in self-pity or work with it and make it a success," Chaplin said.

Ricci pushed herself to earn a place in the lineup, casting aside any doubt or uncertainty.

"She deserved that spot," Chaplin said.

When she came to Oregon State, Ricci heard the same thing as the other athletes. Your experience, the outcome, is determined by you.

"Taylor took that to heart," Chaplin said. "She has jumped in with both feet into every opportunity she’s been given. That is why she’s been successful."


Ricci was raised by a single-mom who did all she could to make sure that her two daughters had the best chance for a bright future.

Ricci started competitive gymnastics when she was 6-years-old. By third grade, she left school at lunchtime, training five hours a day, five or six days a week. Her mom owned a children’s store, and sometimes, Ricci would need to catch a ride or get picked up from practice by neighbors and friends.

She received her classwork from teachers before leaving school, and did the missed schoolwork after practice, before going to bed and waking up to repeat the same sequence again.

"It’s a pretty boring routine," she said.

But she knew that she must sacrifice little things in pursuit of bigger dreams.

Her organization and time management skills paid off in college. After becoming involved with the Student Athlete Advisory Committee at Oregon State, she quickly rose to the ranks of leadership.

Ricci leads by example and exudes a quiet confidence.

"I’m a perfectionist," she said.

A lot of gymnasts are.

Some student-athletes do their sport and school and that’s it. Ricci is a driving force behind a different student-athlete culture at Oregon State.

"There’s so much more you can get out of it," Ricci said.

Kimya Massey got to know Ricci when he was hired as senior associate athletic director for student-athlete development at OSU in 2015. Ricci is an outstanding role model for younger athletes, he said. People look up to her because they can see the results of her hard work.

"She’s been able to set a tone," Massey said.

He predicts that her influence on future generations to be engaged and involved will endure.

"She’s one of the best student-athletes I’ve ever known," Massey said. "I think she’s going to be someone who stays involved. That’s a testament to her and her love for this place."

Wise beyond her years, and grateful for the experience, Ricci said gymnastics made her dream of attending college possible.

"Gymnastics will only last a certain phase of my life," Ricci said. "But my education will take me a lot further."