By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - As an Auburn gymnast, Sarah Wentworth experienced the full emotional spectrum -- jubilation and devastation -- in the same week.
On March 3, 2000, Wentworth broke Auburn's all-around record at LSU. Two days later, at Centenary, she accomplished a lifelong dream, a perfect 10, on bars. Minutes later, Wentworth suffered a career-ending injury on vault.
Driving back to Auburn from Louisiana, Wentworth's parents were severely injured in a car accident.
"All of us eventually recovered from our injuries, but I needed a lot of practical help while my parents were in the hospital," Wentworth says. "Seeing the Auburn family come through and take care of me during those days are moments I'll always cherish in my heart."
Despite missing the postseason, Wentworth became the first Auburn Tiger to earn SEC Gymnast of the Year honors.
"My fondest memories as an Auburn gymnast center around my team and the support of the Auburn family," she says. "My team was truly a family to me, and I loved competing for Auburn alongside them for our incredible fans."
Inspired by her example, Auburn created the Sarah Wentworth Award, given to the gymnast who best exemplifies the Auburn Creed.
"I am humbled by the kindness of my coaches in naming an award after me," says Wentworth, who received the inaugural award in 2000. "It's an honor I never expected."
After earning her undergraduate degree, Wentworth remained in Auburn, graduating from Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
"Being a student-athlete at Auburn requires discipline, time management, hard work, and focus," Wentworth says. "I think these are the building blocks for success in all of life. I was not particularly the smartest student or most gifted gymnast, but I was determined to work hard and do my best in whatever I engaged in.
"With time and patience, success came, but it was not without struggle, injuries, and heartache at times. Perseverance in what I loved brought about lasting change, and by God's grace I was able to succeed."
Dr. Wentworth spent eight years as a veterinarian in Birmingham before moving in 2015 to Africa, where she uses her vet skills to improve the quality of life for people and their livestock in Bundibugyo, Uganda. She also disciples summer interns and apprentices, training the next generation of leaders.
"As I was praying about going into missions long term, I came across Psalm 108," Wentworth says. "I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered."
"That last phrase struck my heart--God longs for people to be delivered from sin and experience His love. How could I not go and share this love with those who have not heard?"
Wentworth traces her spiritual growth to her sophomore year at Auburn, a development that also enhanced her gymnastics career, she says.
"Only after coming to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior my sophomore year was I freed up to enjoy competing, as I knew my worth and purpose in life was to glorify God and not myself," Wentworth says. "He loved me no matter the result at the end of the meet. He blessed my junior and senior year beyond anything I could imagine."
Wentworth still follows Auburn's gymnastics program from afar.
"I am proud the program continues to grow and improve each year," she says. "Jeff [Graba] has done a wonderful job."
To Auburn's gymnasts who seek to balance athletics and academics with their spirituality, Wentworth offers advice from her journey.
"I believe if you are putting your spiritual lives first, everything else will fall into place," she says. "The first verse I ever memorized was Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer