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DU gymnast balances physics research with elite-level routines

Sophomore Rylie Mundell has already obtained a physics research grant and near-perfect gymnastics scores in only one year of college.

DENVER — For someone who spends most of her life focused on numbers, Rylie Mundell is not too concerned with figures when she's on the gymnastics floor.

"I don't really focus on the scores, as a principle for myself, because focusing on the scores isn't what gets 10's at the end of the day," the sophomore said.

Mundell is a mathematical wizard, as a physics major and a math minor at the University of Denver. In between her freshman and sophomore year, she already obtained a research grant and completed a study on laser mazes. In her spare time, she's also a star pupil on the DU gymnastics team.

"It's a little bit less mathematical," she joked. "I love math, believe me, if I could find a way to use physics to make my gymnastics better, I would."

Yet, she still finds ways to incorporate what she knows in the classroom into what she's still learning each day on the mats.

"Challenging myself in physics every day makes my gymnastics better because it strengthens my ability to think critically and focus on the problem at hand," she said. "So, if I fall of the beam, there are a hundred things that I could look at differently, but at the end of the day, it usually comes down to making one small correction that leads to a series of changes."

And now, Mundell is ready to put those skills to the test. Her first exam of the 2022 year: the Pio's home opener on January 9 at Magness Arena and a chance to score some extra credit in front of her own home crowd. 

The Parker, Colorado native has never had the chance to perform in front of her home fans, since 2021 was mostly performed in front of empty arenas due to COVID-19.

"I grew up coming to DU gymnastics meets for as long as I can remember and the smell of popcorn and the taste of Dippin' Dots is engrained in my head. I never thought I would come this far," the Colorado Gymnastics Institute alumni said. "I remember watching girls on this team when I was young doing skills that didn't even know what they were, I couldn't even name them at the time, and I didn't think it was a possibility to be on the floor myself."

More than a possibility, Mundell is only fractions away from being a top performer in three of four categories on the reigning Big 12 champion team. Mundell earned Big 12 Newcomer of the Week in week two and three last year, and Big 12 Gymnast of the week in week three.

"It's small changes that all add up to big results. I trust my coaches to guide me in the right direction and know that if they could get me there my freshman year, then they can get me so much farther with more support and now they know me so much better," she said.

Those small changes to big results -- that sounds like a math problem.

"Yes, that's just like physics," she said. "It's all about isolating the little things in a problem and it gets you where you need to be."

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