It's back to the future for the Homestead girls gymnastics team, and so far that is proving to be a good thing for the young Highlanders as they won the White Division in their powerhouse invitational on Jan. 16.
'The meet went great,' said first-year coach Kayla Walenta. 'We put a lot of work into it organizationally, and it went pretty well. The girls are responding well, too. There are 13 of them on the team, and about six or seven of them are freshmen, including some with club experience.'
Walenta is the third coach in as many years for the Highlanders, but she has some familiarity with the program as she is the stepdaughter and assistant of former coach Mike Giles, who led the Highlanders for some years before stepping down after the 2013-14 season.
There is some experience that Walenta and her staff are working with, including seniors Ellie Trau, Nina Peot and Mackenzie Goebel and sophomores Natalie Ceelen and Sophie Ng. Freshmen who are having an impact include Emma Fox and Olivia Rossman.
'We've been progressing each meet except for one minor setback,' Walenta said. 'We started at 125 (points for a team score) and have gone up to 127, 130 and now 131.'
The Highlanders hit that 131.85 total to win the nine-school White Division event over West Bend East (129.975).
Trau led the way, winning the uneven bars with an 8.475 mark and earning third on floor exercise (8.95) and second in the all-around (33.8). Fox was second on balance beam (8.85) and vault (9.0) and fifth in the all-around (33.6). Goebel was sixth in floor exercise (8.65) and fourth in the balance beam (8.325), while Ceelen tied for fourth on vault (8.8).
Walenta said the team turned in its best vault efforts of the season. She added that all six varsity performers contributed to the score.
'We were really excited at how things turned out,' Walenta said. 'The kids were excellent throughout the meet, and they really came together.'
Behind Aly Yurkowitz's winning effort on floor exercise, the Blue Dukes took fifth in the nine-school Red Division of the Highlander with a 136.5 total as Kenosha Combined won with a 143.35 mark.
'The meet was very interesting,' said Blue Duke coach Mary Liniewski, 'though the goal was around 138 and clearly not 136.'
Bay was hampered by the fact that Mary Claire Potter jammed a toe earlier in the week and was limited in what she could participate in. Liniewski also said Bay had some issues on the uneven bars and noted the balance beam was a 'disaster'.
On the other hand, she thought that the team did very well on both floor and vault.
Yurkowtiz won floor with a 9.35, was fifth in vault (9.2) and took seventh in the all-around (35.975).
'All the kids have little injuries right now, and we're resting some of them,' Liniewski said. 'Because of that, our push this season will be later in the season.'
The Knights were seventh in the Red Division with a 135.5 total as Cailin Mahoney was third on vault with a 9.3 mark. She got backing on that event by Ellen Liang, who was ninth (9.1). Mahoney was also 12th in the all-around with a 34.975 score.
Liang was eighth on the uneven bars (8.825), while Abbe Hansen was 12th on beam (8.875).
The Greyhounds were seventh in the White Division with a 116.025 total.
Izzie Tasse was 11th in the all-around with a 32.125 total as she earned a ninth on the balance beam with an 8.15 mark and an 11th on uneven bars with a 7.675.
Katie Brusnahan tied for eighth on vault (8.6), while Matia Williams was 11th on the same event with 8.4.