The West Salem co-op girls gymnastics team is intent on proving that nothing can stop it this season.
With 11 gymnasts — a combination of competitors from West Salem, Aquinas and Bangor high schools — battling through what has been a constant presence of challenging injuries, the team is determined to earn another berth at the WIAA state meet in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.
The team turned in a fourth-place finish in the Division 2 state meet a year ago, posting a score of 138.0167 after turning in an undefeated regular season. This year, coach Carrie O’Hearn said the team’s goal is to make a return trip to the state meet, then improve on last year’s finish.
“We’re hosting sectionals for the first time ever in West Salem, so that may give them a little advantage being on home equipment with the home crowd,” O’Hearn said. “I just hope they have fun, and I’m praying for a healthy season.
“If we do have more injuries throughout the season, that will be what holds us back, not the talent, not the motivation, and not the drive. It would be the injuries.”
With two gymnasts competing in limited events due to injury, West Salem used its depth to win the nine-team Baraboo Invitational last week with an impressive 135.775 mark. Freshman Sydney Hammes was third in the all-around (34.3) after finishing second on the floor exercise (9.325) and fifth on vault (8.4).
“She’s (Hammes) competed with the seniors for years at the YMCA,” O’Hearn said. “The upperclassmen are kind of taking Sydney under their wing and encouraged her and she fits right in.”
Senior Ellie Tschumper, one of the team’s top gymnasts, has battled injuries and is again wearing a knee brace after dislocating it at the first meet of the season. During a difficult beam dismount, Tschumper missed a step and landed on her side, dislocating her knee at the Holmen quadrangular.
Even though she was performing with an injured knee two days later at the Baraboo Invitational, Tschumper decided to keep her difficult bar routine rather than toning it down as a precautionary.
“When I dislocated my knee at the meet, I knew there was something about it that it wouldn’t be as bad as when I did it before,” said Tschumper, who was a state runner-up on the bars last year with a 9.167. “When it came to (the Baraboo Invitational), it wasn’t hurting as bad, and I was going to do a watered-down routine.
“But I had the urge to do my full routine. I knew I had to put all of my effort into it even though there was a bigger chance to get hurt.”
Tschumper’s decision turned out to be a good one, as her performance earned a 9.45 to break her previous school record of 9.35.
Tschumper’s record performance came as no surprise to O’Hearn.
“I gave her the option to do her old bar routine without the bigger skills,” O’Hearn said. “I knew right then and there that was the competitor in her. She’s going to do what it takes and not hold back. She’ll do whatever it takes.”