Naperville North defeats Naperville Central

 
By Chris Walker
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/16/2020 10:45 PM

You don't have to earn the highest score to be a winner in high school girls gymnastics.

As long as you're giving your all, gymnastics will create character, build character and ultimately reveal it. Plus, chances are pretty good that you'll make some great new friends and unforgettable memories. That's a win too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While it certainly was rewarding for Naperville North to outscore Naperville Central 132.4 to 113.7 during Thursday's DuPage Valley Conference meet, there were countless strides being made by the 14 varsity gymnastics who competed.

"I truly feel like we strive to make it our goal to have personal and team bests and not worry about what all the other teams are doing," Redhawks coach Christina Tardy said. "It is really fun when the girls get a new skill that they have been working on in practice. They get so excited and that is what it is all about."

Huskies sophomore Katie Kristle led the Huskies, winning the all-around with a 34.25. She also posted the top score on vault and floor and tied senior teammate Chloe Tsao for first on beam while Abby Aldrich won bars.

"I've now done the all-around in every meet," Kristle said. "I've been consistent on beam and bars have stayed the same. I feel like I'm more consistent on floor and I upgraded to a new vault."

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Gymnasts tend to perfectionists but no one is perfect. Good luck explaining that to the athletes.

"I think this sport is a love/hate relationship sometimes," Huskies sophomore Dana Blakey, who placed third on beam, said. "I hate it when I have mental blocks, but you've got to work on getting over those to do the sport you love the most."

Regardless, if you're a senior like Naperville Central's Joanna Huang, who became a gymnast a few years ago, or like Naperville North's Emma Ryan, who has been a gymnast since she was a toddler and placed second on vault, there's an undeniable love of the sport and the camaraderie with teammates that's addicting.

"I'm flexible from doing Chinese dance so I figured I'd give it a try," Huang said. "I didn't know anyone at first, but after a few months I felt like it was my family. I've learned so much. I'll watch old videos of myself and how I've gained a lot more skills and I've met so many new people."

Ryan's time as a gymnast is running out and she knows it.

"I started thinking about it a few nights ago," she said. "It's bittersweet because I've met some of my best friends here. I love the energy it gives me when I compete. It's nerve-wracking, but once I compete it's a nice relief and I'm proud of myself. I'm going to miss that feeling."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But she won't miss the lessons she's learned.

"Through Coach (Chris) Stanicek I've learned the value of hard work," she said. "I can notice myself when I'm in school and class and a lot of my work ethic has come from gymnastics. I have the same life mindset."

Tsao was persuaded by her mom to return to gymnastics after a three-year hiatus. That was four years ago. Now she's trying to enjoy the last few weeks as a competitive gymnast.

"I did a lot of it for the social aspect, but obviously there's the physical aspect there too," Tsao said. "Now I'm soaking it all in. I kind of want to finish it up well since it's my last year."

Delaney Sterr wasn't planning on being a gymnast in high school. Now the thought of being away from the sport is unimaginable for the Redhawks junior.

"I didn't plan on doing high school until like October of freshman year," she said. "I decided to come back and I've been back ever since."

Wednesday's meet was extra special since Sterr was competing against one of her best friends, Gwen Swalwell.

One of the blessings of high school gymnastics is it provides an outlet for girls with little to no background in the sport, as well as those who have survived club circuit burnout and are ready to give it a shot again, albeit with less stress.

Redhawks sophomore Marissa Swanson is one such club kid. She took third on floor.

"I did club last year and had ankle surgery and decided I didn't want to do club or do college," she said. "I knew a decent amount about the team. This is not really stressful. I'm doing it all for fun and having a good time with all my teammates and coaches. It's a nice way for me to escape my school work and a nice break in the middle of the day before I start homework."

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