The Evanston girls gymnastics team has something that very few of the elite teams in the state have: 85 percent of the gymnasts are freshmen. Head Coach Chester Jones continues to be positive about the team, attributing the poor season to lack of experience.
“Freshman Lauren Nortz and Michelle Frazier, along with Anna Sippel, are great to watch grow in this sport, learning new skills and putting them to the test during a meet, and then trying to fix it when it doesn’t work,” said Coach Jones. “I like that in my girls this year.”
“Almost everyone walks into the gym for the first time in freshman year, not ever having tried gymnastics before, myself included,” said junior Claire Wagner. She points out there is no feeder program for gymnastics in Evanston, whereas other schools, such as New Trier, work out year-round at club gyms. “Gymnastics is not a very popular sport in Evanston, and to be really good you have to have done it since elementary school,” she said.
“They stay positive even when teams beat us up,” said Coach Jones. “They have fun even at their own mistakes. I like that. I’m not saying we played [well] all year, but the girls sometimes were hard on themselves for making little mistakes – which in the long run cost us meet wins.”
In a season such as this one, it can be tough to find many bright spots, but Coach Jones has stayed positive. “Junior Colleen Harper [is a bright spot] because she finds something to smile about all the time – even my jokes,” he said. “Junior Corinne Sondak has an expression on her face every day — not sure if it is a smile, but it’s interesting to guess what she’s been up to. My sophomores are great, too. Caroline Moberly, Jess Carley and Cecilia Wen are working hard for more praise in the limelight. It’s good that they want to achieve more.”
“Another factor is that we do not have any seniors on the varsity team, while last year we had four to contribute to the varsity score,” said Wagner. “I stay motivated by remembering how much I love coming into the gym every day, wondering what crazy skill Coach Jones will challenge me to try, and then amazing myself by things I never would have believed I could do,” Wagner added. “Jones really pushes us and forces the girls to believe in themselves because he always sees the best in them.”
Sondak maintains a positive outlook on the rest of the season. “The keys for success for the remainder of the season are to continue working hard and to push yourself. We can’t give up and stop at the end of the season. We have to work as hard as at the beginning.”
To keep his team motivated, Coach Jones asks his team to do just one thing: “I just ask them to do their best for that day. Tomorrow will take of itself. We have to learn from what has happened here and look for tomorrow.”
The Kits compete in the Niles West Invite on Jan. 24. They conclude the year on Jan. 29 when they compete in the Central Suburban League Invite at Maine South.