Tomah High School gymnastics coach Karen Brown has a good mix on her 2018-19 roster. Seven letterwinners are back, but there is enough freshman talent to create extra competition for varsity spots.
It points to a promising present and solid future for the Timberwolves. Tomah adds six freshmen to the roster this season while losing just one letterwinner from last season, and Brown is looking forward to filling all five varsity and junior varsity spots − something she hasn’t been able to do since the 2013-14 season.
“It helps when I graduate only one and get six,” Brown said. “We had 12 girls at the middle school last year, and half of them came out as freshmen. Hopefully they’ll stay with it.”
Unlike the past few seasons, Tomah has several returning letterwinners who appear ready to compete in all four events. They include seniors Kalecia Kolinski and Azalea Roberts. Kolinski was Tomah’s third-highest scorer in all-around, while Roberts battled injuries last season after cracking the varsity lineup as a sophomore.
Hannah Hogan, a junior, is the top returning all-around performer from last season. She came within one place of qualifying for the state meet in the vault last season. Brown hopes adding an extra twist will add to Hogan’s vault score.
Brown said Hogan is also working to boost her scores on the uneven parallel bars.
“Over the summer, she has been working to improve her bars routine, and that should add to our all-around scores,” Brown said.
Tomah’s number-two all-around performer from last season, junior Ashley Nelson, is also back. Brown said Nelson’s season on the swimming team will pay dividends in gymnastics.
“I can already tell she has more upper-body strength,” Brown said.
Several other letterwinners return. Senior Lily Stewart is back for varsity bars and vault. She was one of Tomah’s top scorers on bars, and Brown said Stewart “got a lot stronger” during the off-season.
Tomah’s other two letterwinners are sophomores Madison Tesar, who competed on varsity vault and bars last season, and Anna Jackson, who did varsity floor but is bidding for an all-around spot this year.
Rounding out the roster are senior Journey Smith; juniors Reyna Herold and Brianna Bowen; sophomore Julie Calkins; and freshmen Kaylea Cook, Zoey Dvorak, Amelia Hammer, Olivia Hammer, Alyssa Haskamp and Alyson Simon.
Of the freshmen, Simon appears closest to nabbing a varsity spot, most likely on vault and floor, but Brown wouldn’t rule out other freshmen earning varsity time.
“They have a good chance of pushing those upperclassmen for varsity spots,” Brown said.
With long-time Holmen coach Karen Kuhlmann retiring after 35 seasons, Brown is now the dean of Mississippi Valley Conference coaches. She begins her 15th season and has been with the program since it was launched in 2003. She has also coached most of Tomah’s roster since they were youth gymnasts.
“I’ve known these girls since they were three or four,” Brown said.
(Final 2017-18 standings)