Young faces galore
La PORTE — Having a gymnastics squad full of freshmen can provide any coach a lot of emotions regarding the future as well as the present.
The future usually provides hope and optimism, while the present can provide myriad of surprises and challenges.
Both surprises and challenges occurred on Saturday for the La Porte gymnastics squad which opened its season at La Porte Pairs with one less gymnast to compete – freshman Alexis Tracy – who injured her ankle during warm-ups and forced her partner, Shelby Singleton, to tough it out alone.
Meanwhile, the freshman pair of Ella Schable and Rylee Stephany provided Slicers coach Emily Baker a pleasant type of surprise as they turned in a solid varsity debut – finishing ahead of pairs from two of the seven teams which competed Saturday.
“It is a totally different atmosphere from club to high school, so it is a bit harder because freshmen are expected to do a little bit more,” Baker said. “We just have to work up to those higher level skills, which I know that they can get. It’s all about confidence. The environment is very exciting and promising.”
Schable and Stephany scored an 8.5 on the floor, 8.45 in the vault, a 7.35 on the bars, and 7.15 on the beam for an all-around score of 31.45 – good for 14th place out of 17 pairs.
“This was a not a bad meet at all to start the season,” Baker said. “I am actually impressed with the performance from Ella and Rylee.”
Schable and Stephany being paired together is actually of no coincidence, given the two are next door neighbors and have been friends since Kindergarten – though their respective journey into gymnastics slightly differ.
“This my third year in gymnastics,” Schable said. “I became interested in gymnastics because I used to dance when I was younger, and I like the tumbling part. Starting in high school has been a little bit of an adjustment from club (Michigan City). It was a little nerve-wracking out there today.”
Stephany, who has been in gymnastics for seven years, said that she’s been relishing the opportunity to start competing on the high school level for some time.
“I’ve definitely been waiting and anticipating this year,” she said. “I’ve been doing competitive gymnastics for about five years. I also like tumbling, and I love the floor. That is my favorite event. It’s neat that Ella and I knew each other before gymnastics.”
Baker said the duo’s history together can only help.
“The fact that they know each other is a good thing because they have already bonded,” she said.
Of the 11 gymnasts on the squad, only three are not freshmen. Tionna Weddings, a senior, is competing for the first time. Madison Esmeyer is a sophomore. Marlene Schuller, an exchange student, is a junior.
“I was a little sad that Alexis and I weren’t going to get a score together,” said Singleton, who scored an 8.5 on the vault and a 4.5 on the bars. “I just knew I had to give my best and see what scores I could get. The vault is definitely my strength. The first meet has felt a lot like my club experience.”
The silver lining with the freshmen class, according to the Baker, is their collective gymnastics background.
“They have all competed (USA Gymnastics),” Baker said. “They all know what it’s like and know what to do. They know what the routines are supposed to be like. That is ultimate gift – when they know what to do. It’s exciting because it’s something I have not had in a while.”