Chesterton's Lindsey Campbell performs her floor exercise during the Gymnastics Regional at Valparaiso High School Friday evening. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 27, 2013 6:29AM
Head coach Lauren West returns for her second season at the helm of the program that she competed for in high school. Also back for the Trojans this year is junior Brandy Tuzinski, who finished 11th on beam and 12th in all-around as Chesterton’s lone state qualifier last season.
Junior Lindsey Campbell is also returning to a Trojans’ roster that features 8 new athletes on a roster of 16.
“They just need to be consistent and be leaders for our team,” West said of Cambpell and Tuzinski. “We have a lot of new girls, so they need to be shown what it means to compete and do well under pressure.”
Some underclassmen with plenty of club experience to keep an eye on are sophomore Mary Choucalas, freshman Jordan Kearby and freshman Taylor Rodriguez.
At one of the earliest competitions of the season, the LaPorte Pairs, it was Crown Point’s squad that posted the best team score, much to the delight of head coach Ami Pysh.
The duo of returning senior Megan Supan and talented freshman Hannah Best, a former Level 9 club gymnast, were largely responsible for that victory. Plenty more experience fills out the Bulldogs’ roster with names like Emily Langston, Britnee Miles, Samantha Nicol and Natalie Groff. An early season test awaits on Jan. 3 when Crown Point will face Valparaiso.
Said Pysh: “Our goal is to go in there, have some solid performances and then progress from there.”
Five seniors departed from the program after the 2011-12 campaign, although head coach Jen Crespo was able to replenish the roster up to a total of 14 gymnasts.
Seniors Maddy Dominguez and Amber Gonsiorowski figure to be Hobart’s top contributors, but good things are also expected from freshman Morgan Gospaderek.
“My goal is for all of them to do their best and to have them improve their personal skills,” said Crespo.
It’s Diane Roberts’ 40th year as the coach at Merrillville, and it’s shaping up to be special in even more ways.
“This whole team has been together through clubs, they know each other and they’re as close as gymnastics sisters can be,” said Roberts.
Five gymnasts, in particular, are excited about finally reaching this point: senior Amy Aponte, Lauren Lamb and Hannah Lane and juniors Kristina Goodman and Taylor Woods.
And don’t forget about newcomer Bethany Rochfort, who Roberts referred to as a “phenomenal freshman.”
“We don’t have any superstars or anyone that is our 100 percent leader. Everyone is trying to stay as close as they can to each other and we think that’s the key to our success,” said Roberts.
Holly Strickland is the new coach for the second year of the revived Boone Grove gymnastics’ program, which featured a pair of gymnasts last season: Taylor Cain and Holly’s daughter, sophomore Valerie Strickland.
Cain, now a junior, is dealing with a back injury that will have her out for most of the season, although Coach Strickland didn’t rule her out for the entire year. Joining Valerie Strickland in competition this year will be freshman Jessica Stahl.
Said Coach Strickland: “For Jessica, we just want her to get used to competing at the high school level. For Valerie, we want her to make it to regional as an individual.”
Senior Cassidy Feldsien is back as the gymnast at Washington Township with a new coach this year: Taylor Holmes. After an injury-plagued junior season, Feldsien took four months off before returning to the gym this summer.
“We’re looking for a healthy season this year,” said Holmes. “She’s worked hard to get herself back into competition. We’re working on cleaning up what she currently has but we’ve also been striving for new skills.”
Summer was unkind to the Indians, as the gym that hosted their workouts suddenly closed. But that hasn’t dampened head coach Bryan Yancey’s optimism.
“I’m really excited about this season. I didn’t get to see them until the first day of practices this winter but they’ve done a great job of catching up.”
Senior co-captains Brittany Vanek and Emily Costello are back, as is sophomore Andi Wartman. Yancey was also enthusiastic about the five freshmen that joined the team.
“We have a nice mixture of new and old,” he said. “I was nervous about what to expect from them but I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far.”
After co-coaching the last two years, Joe Rodenbucher takes full control of the Devils’ program. Twelve girls again fill out the Lowell roster, including co-captains Brittany Clemens and Kara Manojlovich. Junior Sam Hammer and sophomore Skyler Lewis also bring experience back to the team.
Underclassmen Carrie Simmons and Dominique Ramon were two more names Rodenbucher mentioned as potential keys to the team’s 2012-13 success.
“Our goal is always to improve,” he said. “We just need to start putting some wins on the board this year.”
Graduation took four gymnasts away from the program, but head coach Gillian Kieft still has plenty of varsity experience to count on this winter. Natalie Smith, Julie Vindas, Shelby Ford, Ashley Koza and Adrienne Fuller all return after competing on the varsity level last year.
“We’re always looking to improve,” said Kieft, “especially after having such a young team last year.”
Freshmen Kristen Gushrowski and Anisa Higginbotham are two experienced club gymnasts who will add some depth to the Wolves’ lineup.
Former Slicers gymnast and assistant coach of the last three years Emily Crabtree is the new coach at LaPorte, taking over for Suzann Myres. Her first goal will be to replace the void left by the departure of all-state gymnast Abbey Light, who graduated.
Hannah Sightes, Emily Sightes, Kylie Harlow, Marissa Hill, and Melanie Smith are all veteran gymnasts that Crabtree will be counting on for big points this year.
“I want the girls to take what they’ve been doing in the preseason and show me that they can do it in the regular season,” Crabtree said.
P-T Top 3
3. Crown Point
— By Dave Melton,