Waubonsie Valley-Metea Valley co-op defeats Naperville Central

 
By Chris Walker
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/11/2019 9:32 PM

Most high school gymnastics coaches aren't trying to get their kids Division I athletic scholarships, preparing them for the Olympics or guiding them toward a professional career in the sport.

Rather, they're teaching lifetime values through an extracurricular activity that provides a balance with academics while emphasizing teamwork, sportsmanship, hard work, friendship and having a good time.

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For Waubonsie Valley-Metea Valley co-op senior gymnasts Marisa Cruz, Kaity Stocco and Ishika Punhani, and senior team managers Katie Montini and Trinity Robertson that high school gymnastics experience is almost over.

The five were honored during Senior Night on Thursday as the Warstangs defeated Naperville Central, 134.05 to 122.85, in DuPage Valley Conference action.

"It's been real sentimental and I didn't think I'd cry," Punhani said. "It kicked in when the parents lined up and we got notes from our teammates that were real sweet and all the decorations. I definitely enjoy the sport, but I think I enjoy the people more. I've made so many friends and it's a big family."

About a half-dozen Warstangs alums were in attendance to recognize their former teammates.

"I can't get them to leave," Warstangs coach Phil Gilmer said jokingly. "I do love being a part of it, and at the end of it we're a family that pushes and cares about each other. To listen to them cheer for each other is probably one of my favorite parts of meets."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There was plenty to cheer about. The co-op had a season-high score, which is also the top score during Gilmer's four-year tenure.

The Bowen sisters put on a show on vault, with Thalia leading the way with a 9.4 and Thera following with a 9.1. Thera had the top beam score and also won the all-around, while Destiny Carter also was very good in all four events.

"This is kind of where we wanted to start peaking," Gilmer said. "It's awesome to see that score as a team, especially a team with only six people on varsity and with falls too. We need to clean it up and hit hard at conference, but overall tonight was awesome to see."

Stocco celebrated her special night by winning bars.

"Our score was pretty crazy because I felt we did a lot better on some events, but on others it was kind of average," she said. "We had a rough day on beam but got that back on floor, which was good."

Cruz, who hadn't competed all season due to a knee injury, helped the team on bars with an 8.1. The timing of her return could not have been better.

"I was very lucky to compete," she said. "I didn't think I was going to be out this long, but physical therapy said I needed to wait longer to make sure my knee could handle this. I'm happy to be back."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Great success in gymnastics continues to remain elusive in the Naperville area. The last team to compete at state was Naperville Central in 2007 and the community hasn't had an individual state champion since Shannon O'Brien brought a beam title back to Naperville North in 2001 (although last February, Neuqua Valley's Jane Riehs took second on beam).

But the top scores aren't the only ways to measure success.

"We focus on the skills they come in with and we want to be better than that and then with the team we focus on getting better and set goals," Redhawks coach Glen Reimers said. "So if we start with a 120 and end with a 125, it's a successful season and that's what we do and what we build on."

Lexi Swanson led the Redhawks, winning floor and taking second in the all-around. Hailey Haumann is battling injuries and was limited but still led the team on vault and bars.

"The group isn't really worried about their scores, it's about doing better and hitting routines," Reimers said. "It's the camaraderie and support they give each other. They've been having sleepovers and breakfasts together. That's what I like to see."

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