On the beam

Amanda Whalen of the West Salem co-op gymnastics team performs a handstand during her beam routine at a meet last year in Viroqua. Whalen is part of a deep, talented West Salem co-op team this season.

Carrie O’Hearn knew that she had a good team before the season started. In her 13 years at the helm of the West Salem co-op gymnastics team, she’s seen a bevy of talented athletes come through the gym doors.

But even she hasn’t seen a team quite like the one she has this season.

“We’ve had a lot of talent, but we’ve never had this much depth,” O’Hearn said. “So many of our girls can fill in all the spots. We have so many who can do well and score for our team.”

West Salem co-op’s ability to score was evident Saturday at the Baraboo Invitational. The team beat nine other teams to win the meet and scored a 132.375 — a high score rarely seen this early in the season and a mark that exceeded the team’s high point total from all of last season.

The squad has strong group of veterans, led by returning All-state performers in Ellie Tschumper, Amanda Whalen, Cherie Lun, Alaina Miller, Cydney Lyga and Maria Lyga. Added to that bunch are a pair of freshmen in Anna Tanke and Anna Gorski that make up the base of the team’s lineup.

At Baraboo, Tanke won the vault (9.05) and was second in the beam (8.25). Miller took second in the bars (8.3), Whalen was third in the beam (8.075) and Tschumper took third in the floor exercise (8.65) and third in the all-around (32.55).

What was even more impressive with the team’s showing was that they had miscues that cost them a potential for five more points, O’Hearn said.

With that many capable performers, O’Hearn said she’s had trouble at time picking just five to put into each event.

“It’s extremely difficult,” she said. “I changed the lineup eight times before (Saturday’s) meet. A lot of what goes into those decisions is just their attitudes and how they’ve been working in the gym.”

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O’Hearn said she rewards athletes who are making strides in the practice gym and who are correcting things they need to work on.

“The lineup is about balancing team success and individual success,” O’Hearn said.

O’Hearn said she was initially worried about how her team would react when an athlete was pulled from an event, like she had to do before the Baraboo meet when one athlete wasn’t having a good warm-up.

“They’re doing phenomenally with all of that. They have really embraced the team focus we have and are always supporting each other and cheering for each other,” O’Hearn said.

The team’s ability to come together so quickly is something O’Hearn said she can’t explain, but noted the amount of time the group has spent together in the youth ranks may be a reason.

“A lot of our varsity and JV (athletes) have grown up together, done the YMCA program together. They are just good kids. There’s no drama. I’ve had no problems with a girl not supporting their teammates,” she said.

O’Hearn said the team’s bond was on display on the way back from the Baraboo meet. The group hands over their cell phones on the team bus so they don’t retreat behind their screens, the coach said. The team uses the time to bond on their own, resulting in an hours of loud singing on the bus.

“Coaching can be exhausting, but they’re making it easy and a lot of fun,” O’Hearn said.

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