Ashley Wilkowski, 13, left, Bailei Hughes, 17, and team captain Bekka Reineke, 18, chalk up their hands before practicing on the uneven bars.
Photo by Emily Buss
After a year without a coach and no concrete plans to move forward, the Winona Senior High School gymnastics team is back in action. The high-flying Winhawks put chalk to bar Thursday night for their first practice of the season inside the 7,200 square-foot KidSport gym. With more than 40 years of experience between them, new head coach Rob Murray and assistant coach Brittany Graham said they have high hopes.
The combination of low athlete turnout and the inability of the school to secure a coach led to the disappointment of last year’s season. However, Murray said the desire to continue the program was still there. This year, a handful of girls, ranging from 8th graders to a lone high school senior, are helping prepare the Winhawk gymnastics team to be the one to beat.
“We’re taking over an already successful high school program and it’s our job to make sure the girls are transitioning [into the program] at the right time,” Murray said. “Most of these girls have come through our training program at KidSport and it’s our job to maintain their athletic skills. We are the custodians of talent.”
The girls dominated the uneven bars, practicing jumping from the lower bar to the upper bar with precision and successfully completing the Giant Swing move, so that her body is perpendicular to the upper bar with toes pointing straight in the air. Even though the chalky air settled on their legs and arms, it did not impede their routines or ability to stick each landing.
“The community of gymnasts is small but most have been working on their gymnastics careers here so it’s fun to watch these girls progress into the high school program,” Graham said. “I think this team is made up of some of the best competitors around.”
This year, the team is under the direction of senior captain Bekka Reineke, 18, and will face off against the area’s Big Nine competitors – Rochester, Mankato, Owatonna, Faribault, Northfield, and Austin.
“We’re hoping to be good opponents, credible and challenging. And I think we can do that,” Murray said.
The Winona Senior High School gymnastics team will take on the Faribault Falcons for their first home competition on Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at the KidSport gym.