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WEST SALEM — The West Salem co-op gymnastics team closed the book on its affiliation with West Salem Elementary School on Monday.

A final practice in the gym it called home for 16 years was held before the focus turned to a new facility that was built as part of a passed referendum. The gymnastics team was finally cleared to enter its new home in a facility it shares with the hockey team across the street from the high school.

Current gymnasts and coaches, parents and even a couple of former gymnasts turned the new site from open space to a practice/competition room on Tuesday by moving all of the team’s equipment and setting it up for good.

“It’s sad to leave all the memories behind at the elementary school,” West Salem co-op coach Carrie O’Hearn said. “We were going through (Monday) night reminiscing with some of the alumni, and they were telling on our Facebook page some of their favorite memories.

“Just thinking about the last 16 years in there is pretty amazing, but moving over here and having our own space — not having to set up, break down and waste all of that practice time — and being able to tumble and do exactly what the girls need to get done is very exciting.”

That is the big benefit afforded the team in a new space. Setting up equipment and putting it away every night at practice was cutting down on time the gymnasts need to improve, and practices moving forward will be spent exclusively on getting better.

Those working on site Tuesday carried, pushed and pulled parts of the floor, the mats that covered it and other equipment through doors on both sides of the facility. They emptied carload after carload after it made the short drive from the elementary school as the sun went down.

The next job is to continue an upward swing to the season.

West Salem’s co-op had the state’s third-best score of 135.575 when team scores were submitted to the state coaches association at the end of December.

“It will be really nice to be able to come over right after school and start practice right away without having to take 15 or 20 minutes out of our practice time to set up the gym,” senior co-captain Anna Gorski said. “We’ll be able to use that as practice time to become better as a team.”

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Assistant Sports Editor

Todd Sommerfeldt has covered sports for the La Crosse Tribune since 2003 after doing the same previously in the Fox Cities and Rock County.