Courtney Cowles flips the script

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Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Arizona's Courtney Cowles takes a moment to herself before completeing her routine on the beam against UCLA.

Three, two, one...action. Arizona gymnastics sophomore Courtney Cowles makes the lights and cameras in McKale Center more than a competition floor, she makes it a set for her future aspirations of becoming a female film director.

Cowles was inspired to start gymnastics at a young age by her older sister, Kaitlin. Cowles enjoyed the sport and followed in the footsteps of her sister, who helped the gymnast reach her goals and new skills. With intense training and competition, Cowles qualified four times for the Junior Olympics in 2011-2013 and in 2015.

“In the beginning of high school, I did have elite goals and I was looking to work toward to maybe go to the Olympics, Worlds or even be on the National team,” Cowles said. “But as I got older and I got more injuries I decided to focus on college. Halfway through high school was when I committed to Arizona and all my effort was going to be toward college.”

Injuries occurred quite often for Cowles, as it was very rare for her to have a season without one. Gymnastics continued to take a toll on her body as she had to have an ankle surgery and three shoulder surgeries.

Despite the many injuries Cowles faced, her focus wasn’t on only gymnastics; she grew a passion for directing and producing films. It started out as making little films and music videos with her friends when she was younger. Cowles eventually recognized her talent behind the camera and decided to take a film class in high school.

“When I took a film class in high school I realized that this was something I could do for a living, this was a passion of mine that I could pursue and do something with,” Cowles said. “I continued to take classes and then I went to a separate film school during my senior year.”

Cowles took her talent to Florida Film Academy, where she expanded her knowledge and experience with other high school students. She was then given the opportunity to direct and act in a film called ‘Miss Wittington’, which took first place at the Miami Beach Rising Star Film Festival. 

‘Miss Wittington’ was played in the movie theater before every movie for a month after the festival. While directing the film, Cowles was still training at Brandy Johnson’s Global Gymnastics Academy and eventually began to look at colleges to attend not only for gymnastics, but also for film. 

Many colleges reached out to Cowles, but after visiting Arizona she knew she belonged as a GymCat and canceled all other college visits. She showed what she had to offer for the ‘Cats on the balance beam during freshman year, but she also showed what she had to offer by directing videos for the team. 

Now in her second year as a Wildcat, Cowles continues to video the GymCats during inter squads, meets and traveling. 

“I’ve always tried to take aspects of my life and make them into films or things that interest me,” Cowles said. “I spend most of my time in the gym with my teammates and competitions so I got the idea while we are together to turn it into a hype video for us [Arizona gymnastics] and for other people to see what we are doing. I also do it for self-experience because it is really good practice for me.”

Cowles hopes to one day be a director in the movie industry, but knows that being a female in a male-dominated industry can come with its challenges. She looks at Patty Jenkins, American film director and screenwriter for ‘Wonder Woman’, as inspiration to be apart of the film industry. 

“I am very aware of the problem with unequal pay and the industry being male-dominated, but there are a few female directors that are breaking through and standing up,” Cowles said. “I think that is very important for more females to get into the industry and make themselves present. I see a lot of females in my film classes, which is really exciting to me.”

While enjoying her time as a GymCat, Cowles has competed in every meet since arriving to Arizona and was able to earn season and career highs of 9.800 on beam and 9.725 on vault during the 2017 season. Unlike many sports, gymnastics comes to an end after college, but Cowles is getting set for what is in store. 

“I am looking to move international after college,” Cowles said. “I am a intercultural studies minor so I am learning about other cultures and other languages in hopes to move to Europe and be a film director there or even go to a film school there.”



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