By Dan Harrison
One would think that being selected as an alternate for the United States Gymnastics Team in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing would be the pinnacle of an athlete's career.
But for Danvers raised gymnist Corrie Dong Quan Lothrop, it appears the summer games were merely just a part of the start of what looks to be a very promising career. The 17-year-old gymnist recently accepted a full athletic scholarship from the University of Utah, one of the top gymnastics Universities in the country.
When Corrie heads to Utah next fall, she will be joining a program that has more top-five (27), top-three (22) and top-two (18) national gymnastics finishes than any other school. On top of that, Utah has collected the most All-America awards (304) of any program and Ute gymnasts have won 24 individual event championships-with NCAA titles on every apparatus and in the all-around.
What may be even more exciting for incoming freshman and her parents is that Utah coach Greg Marsden is the only college gymnastic coach with over 900 wins. In his 34 years coaching the Utes, Greg Marsden is 922-160-6 with 10 National championships, 9 NCAA championships, and 18 Top-2 national finishes. The 59 year old Marsden has also been the National Coach of the Year seven times. Greg's wife Megan, who has been the associate head coach from 1997-2009 and an assistant coach from 1985-96, will be assuming the position of co-head coach beginning with the 2010 season.
"Every coach I have talked to who has met him (Marsden) or knows him, speaks the world of him," said Joan Lothrop, Corrie's mother. "I think she will be very comfortable with him."
As impressive a resume as coach Marsden has, it was actually the big stage atmosphere that most attracted Corrie to Utah. The Utes have led the nation in gymnastics home attendance in 25 of the last 28 years (finishing second the other three times) and in 2009, Utah broke its own NCAA single-season attendance record by averaging 13,861 fans in the Huntsman Center. Since 1992, Utah has averaged over 11,000 fans a meet at home.
"I love performing in front of people," explained Corrie Lothrop. "And the place where we compete (Huntsman Center), they do basketball games and other sports there, so it holds 15 thousand people and sometimes for gymnastics they run out of seats."
Being one of the top gymnastic recruits in the country, Corrie visited many different schools, but Utah was always in the back of her mind.
"I kept my options open," said Lothrop, who also visited Alabama, Florida, and Stanford. but I had my heart set on Utah. It was something at Utah, I kept thinking how every other place I went compared to Utah. In the end I knew it was the place for me."
Corrie may be headed to Utah come next fall, but her journey however, began in Wuhan, China where she was adopted ate age two by Danvers residents Don and Joan Lothrop. Don Lothrop is the owner of Yellow Jackets Gymnastics in Middletown, where Corrie began her gymnastic training shortly after moving to the States.
"We adopted her when she was two and then brought her into the gym," explained Joan. "We did the 'mom and me' classes at first, but when she was five or six she got into teams and has been going gangbusters ever since."
From an early age, Corrie's ability in the gym could not be ignored as she surged through the ranks of junior gymnastics which range from levels 5-10 followed by the elite level.
"Every year she seemed to move up a level," commented Joan. "By the time she was 11 years old she was already a level 10. We knew she had the ability to get to the elite level."
Knowing that Yellow Jackets might not be the place to fully develop Corrie's potential, Don and Joan made the difficult decision to start looking elsewhere for a gym better suited to handle a gymnist of Corrie's caliber. So the Lothrop family decided to send Corrie down to Maryland to work with Kelli Hill at Hills Gymnastics Training Center, a gym that had trained Courtney Koupets, a silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics and one of Corrie's favorite gymnists.
"We were thinking that if I moved to be coached by a world class coach, who had had produced olympians pretty much every year, I could maximize my potential," explained Lothrop.
Even though Corrie was away from her father, who had been her gymnastics coach her whole life, she flourished.
"It was hard at first being away from my dad. but I am a go-with-the-flow type of person, Put me anywhere and I will find a way to make it work."
Since 2007, just two years after moving to Maryland, Corrie has competed in international meets in Argentina, Canada, Belguim, Germany, France and other countries around the world.
At the US National Championships in 2008, Corrie finished 8th in the all-around, qualifying her for the Olympic trials where she was asked to the final Olympic selection camp and eventually named an alternate for the 2008 Olympic team.
"I was totally shocked," said Lothrop. "It was my first year as a senior in the division and I had only been on nationals for two years before that, so to be picked was definitly a dream come true."
Joan Lothrop remembers how much being selected as an alternate to the Beijing squad meant to her daughter.
"She (Corrie) cried when she found out. Happy or sad, my kid doesn't cry."
On the way home from the Olympics, in which Corrie spent the majority of time with the other alternates in Japan, the Lothrops stopped in Wuhan, to visit the area in which Corrie was born.
"I had no memories of China so I didn't know what I was looking for," Corrie explained recalling the trip. "From what I saw it was poor, but I am glad I did it and got see what kind of culture I came from."
With her first Olympic experience behind her, Corrie is preparing for the next chapter of her life.
"Well, as of now I am just looking forward to college. I haven't thought about trying to get on the next olympic team because preparing for it is really hard on your body. I am just going to keep competing in college for four years and then we will see what happens."
Lothrop's life in gymnastics
* Competed in the ALl Olympic Invite in Los Angelas in 2006
* Qualified for the 2006, 2007, and 2008 US National teams
* Finished 6th in the all-around in the 2006 Nationals and took home the bronze in the vault
* Won the vault and three bronze medals at the Gymnix International in 2007
* Finished 2nd in the all-around and won the bars at the US Classic in 2008
* Finished 8th in the all-around at the 2008 US National Championships.
* Was selected as an alternate for the 2008 US Summer Olympic team