No matter the circumstances, it is proven that hard work breeds success, and the Valparaiso High School gymnastics team knows that all too well after earning the title of a Gymnastics Dynasty for its jaw-dropping 10 State Championships and 6 Runner-Up titles. However, how do you turn a Gymnastics Team into a Gymnastics Dynasty? After getting an inside look of the VHS Gymnastics Program, I’ve concluded it revolves around dedication, perseverance, desire, and work ethic.
All of the athletes on the team exemplify the “Team First” attitude. They all know they eaech contribute to the success of their team, whether they are competing in the State meet, moving mats, cheering, keeping score, or helping their teammates stay focused. These girls sacrifice their time and energy because it’s for the sake of the team; giving all they got because they’re proud to be a VHS gymnast.
Head Coach Lorie Cook (coach of 40 years) and Assistant Coach Becky Juergens (coach of 34 years), along with two volunteers Angie Moon and Jill DiGiorgio, do their absolute best to train these girls the right way. Their knowledge and consistency in coaching philosophy are the reason these gymnasts are so successful. They help these girls gain the confidence that drives them to success; believing in themselves, their abilities, and the team.
Gymnastics is such a demanding sport, physically and mentally, that it truly is a character-building experience. The team practices three hours a day, six days a week during the season. This includes conditioning, strength, and flexibility work along with focusing on specific skills and routines. Even imagining all the hard work they do is exhausting, so it’s unbelievable that these girls do so much as only high school students.
Additionally, Valparaiso High School is very gifted to have a great facility, provided by the school system and donations from their club program. There are many efficient training mats, soft cushions, and other equipment that all helps in learning new skills easier.
Each year the team has one goal: to be the best they can be. This requires a lot from the gymnasts and the coaches, but the key to success is motivation. Everyone apart of the team knows that they may not always come up on top, but no matter if they’re winning chances are high or low they try their best.
“Perhaps my best memory was the 2008 State Finals,” Coach Lorie Cook said. “As we were introduced the spotlight shone upon us. My daughter as a volunteer assistant stood by me, and my long time assistant coach stood by her daughter who was a team member. To make it a truly perfect day, we won the state title!”
Another great memory was when the team won State in 1981. At that time they had been very close to making finals, but just missed it. Only three girls competed on each event, and the competition was organized by a blind draw. Since all four events were happening at the same time, it was very hectic as each gymnast ran to event after event, sometimes with two athletes competing on different events simultaneously. Near the end of the meet VHS’s last athlete was ready to compete on the beam. Chris Tonner came through with a phenomenal routine, and they won by a two-tenths of a point, beating the two-time defending State Champs. For the girls competing the feeling of winning was indescribable, and needless to say tears of joy were flowing! Every one of the gymnasts worked so hard trying to achieve their dream, and at this meet that dream became a reality.
Like Rome, a dynasty isn’t built in a day. It takes dedication, perseverance, desire, and work ethic, and the Valparaiso High School Gymnastics Dynasty shows all of those qualities. So for any Valpo Vikings fan out there make sure to cheer on your gymnasts this year and hope for another win to add to the collection!