Gymnasts look toward the future

Injuries, illness can’t dampen enthusiasm


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Chugiak captain Emily Romero competes on the balance beam for the Mustangs.

MIKE NESPER

Despite injury-plagued seasons, both Chugiak and Eagle River’s gymnastics coaches were happy following the conclusion of the Cook Inlet Conference meet on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Chugiak High.

“For the girls that were competing they did an amazing job,” said Chugiak’s Wendy Wiltfong, whose squad finished sixth overall.

Chugiak’s top gymnast, sophomore Maddie Smith, had to skip the meet due to injury, but Wiltfong said she’s optimistic about next season.

“I’m really looking forward to next year,” she said.

Chugiak didn’t have a single senior on its roster this season. That means the Mustangs will have a seasoned group next season that will include not only Smith, but team captain Emily Romero, the squad’s only junior.

“She’s really stepped up into the role of a leader,” Wiltfong said of Romero.

Chugiak’s Bella Wiggins finished 13th in the all-around competition to lead all local gymnasts. Alicia Reitz was 16th for the Mustangs in the all-around and Romero was 24th. Wiggins was ninth on the vault and 10th on the balance beam.

South won the team competition as the Wolverines’ Tena Newhouse and Katie Davenport each won two individual rotations. Newhouse also won the all-around competition.

At Eagle River, coach Angie Bayer’s Wolves had just two athletes at the region meet. One gymnast was sidelined by tonsillitis, while another, senior Danica Barto, was lost for the season with an injury earlier this year. Celeste Gibson was the Wolves’ top all-around finisher in 39th, while Kallan Johnson was 42nd.

Despite the loss of Barto — one of the CIC’s top gymnasts — Bayer said the 2012 season gave her plenty of reasons to smile.

“Even though we had a small amount of girls, this was one of the most fun seasons I’ve had,” Bayer said.

Bayer said she couldn’t have asked for a more positive group of athletes.

“There was no drama and just a lot of high spirits,” she said. “Everyone tried their best.”

Eagle River didn’t have enough athletes compete at the region meet to earn a team score. However, the tiny team wasn’t lacking for a cheering section. Because of its small size, Eagle River was paired up with other teams during their rotations, meaning gymnasts for other schools were actually pulling for the Wolves during the meet.

“It was fun rotating with another team because we had a cheering section,” Bayer said.

Although her team was largely made up of inexperienced gymnasts, Bayer said the group made huge strides during the season.

“They excelled rapidly,” she said.

Both local coaches said they’re already getting excited for next season, and both plan to try to recruit new gymnasts into the sport.

With her entire squad likely back next season, Wiltfong said she can’t wait for 2013 to roll around.

“I’m really looking forward to next year,” she said.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com.

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