November 2016

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Page 122 of 122

123 T here were no friends or family waiting for Andrew Botto in Iowa City when the University of Iowa men's gymnast made the trek to attend college from Redwood City, California. Four years later he is surrounded by a family of Hawkeyes. "e team is the No. 1 motivator of why I came here," Botto said Oct. 19 at a UI Athletics Department all-staff meeting in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "We're close and it's safe to say now that all my teammates are my brothers. We look aer each other — we live, eat, go to class with each other. It's good knowing they have your back in case you need help." Botto is a senior who has competed in every competition for three consecutive seasons. He is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten Conference performer. When Botto was 2-years-old he turned the family couch into a landing pad for flips and jumps. His mother, Lisa, decided it was time for him to enroll in gymnastics class. "I haven't le yet," Botto said. Botto was a five-time Junior Olympic Nationals qualifier and a member of the U.S.A. National Team from 2011-13. He said he wanted to "branch off " with college, rather than follow classmates to the University of California, Berkeley. "I had friends back home get mad at me, gossip about me, and turn their backs on me for not staying in California and competing," Botto said. "Taking the recruiting trip here showed why the University of Iowa is such a great school and has so many opportunities for people to thrive as student-athletes." One opportunity Botto advocates is Hawkeye Professional and Career Exposure (P.A.C.E.). e eight-week program gives student-athletes an opportunity to gain experience in career fields while learning from professionals. Botto was interested in becoming a real estate agent, but changed his mind aer job-shadowing. "It allows you to learn what you like and don't like," Botto said. "I always loved the idea of selling houses. Aer taking this exposure experience over the summer, for me (real estate) wasn't what I thought it was and it saved me in the long run. If I was to pursue that path aer college — once I hang up my grips — I would have lost (time) knowing this is not the path I wanted to take." Now Botto, a marketing and entrepreneurial management major, is completing another job- shadow opportunity. "(P.A.C.E.) tells you what you like and don't like and it focuses on your strengths," Botto said. "With gymnastics, there is barely any time off — getting that exposure in the real world will set you up for the next phase in your life." Botto is one of four seniors on the 2017 Hawkeye roster. Iowa advanced to the NCAA Championships Qualifier last season, placing fourth with a score of 423.250. In four years at the UI, Botto recognizes the athletic department's mission of Win. Graduate. Do it Right. "We all know how to win. Every student-athlete here, their team, and coaches are striving to win, so we have that and we can check that off the list," Botto said. "We graduate. We have one of the highest student-athlete APR (Academic Progress Rate) graduation rates in the country, so check that off. And with all the help that everyone does to make student-athletes successful, we know how to do it right."

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