Coach announces retirement following season
Prior to the start of the gymnastics season, head coach Chrystal Chollet-Norton announced her retirement at the conclusion of the competitive year.
"[The decision] was very hard. I've been coaching for 33 years and the time has just flown by," Chollet-Norton said. "It's something I was thinking about and I wasn't sure when it was going to happen. I love what I'm doing, but I have to look at my family and spend more time with them."
Athletic Director Tim Pernetti is set to lead a national search to determine her successor, she said.
Heading into this season, Chollet-Norton has an overall record of 233-235-1 as head coach of the Scarlet Knights' gymnastics program. She began her collegiate coaching career at Trenton State College — now known as The College of New Jersey — from 1979-86. Chollet-Norton held a career record of 270-260-1 as a collegiate women's gymnastics head coach leading into the season.
Under her leadership, the Knights became the United States Collegiate Champions in 2005. In recognition of her efforts that season, Chollet-Norton earned the United States Association of Gymnastics Coach of the Year.
When looking back on her career, Chollet-Norton is less concerned with victories, championships or any other accolades than she is with the impact she had on the lives of the athletes she has coached.
"I have coached tons of athletes over the years and from the stars to the ones that didn't start, I tried to treat every gymnast like she was my own daughter," Chollet-Norton said. "I work to instill values these girls can carry on for their entire lives.
The ability to treat her gymnasts like family is something her current athletes recognize as the strength of their coach.
"We are a really close team," said senior Leigh Heinbaugh prior to Chollet-Norton's announcement. "We are all really good friends, but it is something [Chollet-Norton] really stresses."
One of the main accomplishments of Chollet-Norton's career was the transformation of the gymnastics program from a team in danger of being cut to a thriving one on the cusp of national prominence, she said.
"The program isn't going anywhere at this point," Chollet-Norton said. "That was a huge battle I've been fighting for years."
In the aftermath of her announcement, Chollet-Norton stayed strong on the recruiting end. She continued her success, signing top-level recruits while remaining honest about her future. She already has three freshmen signed to her 2011-12 recruiting class.
"For the last few years, I have told parents that I will not see their daughters graduate," Chollet-Norton said. "It's about selling the school and the experience more than about selling myself."
With the fate of the team secure from a financial standpoint and talent-wise, Chollet-Norton said she is anxious to do something she has not been able to do in more than 30 years.
"I finally get to take a winter vacation with my husband," Chollet-Norton said.