SYRACUSE – Wawasee gymnastics will have a different look than in recent years. A program that has produced several tenured members in addition to a young wave of up-and-comers doesn’t have the old standbys this season, creating both an exciting, yet nervous intro to the 2019-20 campaign.
Wawasee will start its season with just seven athletes on its tentative roster heading into December and the first weeks of official practice. Of those seven, just one – senior Aundreya Wegener – has any tournament experience.
Wegener sits atop the triangle with a chance to leave her mark among a proud traditional history of gymnastics in Syracuse. Her trademark beam event had the then-junior last winter among the best in the area, but falling short of the mark to make a regional appearance after a dip in scoring at the Wawasee Sectional. Her seventh place score of 9.2 on floor was a half-point outside the regional qualification window, which was her top shot at advancement. Wegener finished 11th in all-around scoring at the sectional, within a point of moving on to Huntington.
“Drey has told me heading into this season she feels like some nights she needs to post 10s just to make up for what we don’t have coming back,” Prather said. “We have to keep her mentally from where she puts too much pressure on herself. We’ve seen it happen a lot in the past. But it’s something I think we can keep it from getting to Drey. We know she can make it to regionals, we know she can make it to state, especially on beam. We have every reason to believe this can be a huge year for her.”
From there, however, Wawasee doesn’t have another returning athlete with any postseason or major tournament experience. In fact, sophomores Talia Kuhl and Kenady Meerzo are the only two returners with any high school meet experience, mostly at the JV level. Wawasee does have a junior joining the team in Emma Ebright, who starred this past fall in cross country, but hasn’t competed in gymnastics since elementary school.
Three freshmen in Olivia Ousley, Laya Scott and Trinity LaJoice all competed at the middle school level and give Prather some sight of the future.
“What a lot of these freshmen have to understand is a 9, a 9.5 in middle school isn’t the same at the high school level,” Prather said. “We’ve talked a lot about that. They are going to have to do some skills they may have never done before or feel uncomfortable doing. But I don’t think these girls are incapable of pushing themselves past their comfort zones.”
Wawasee will also take on NorthWood freshman Emilee Conrad, who will compete as a Panther but compete during all Wawasee events. Conrad, a talented all-around performer, competed as an eighth grader in the same format as a Panther competing with Wawasee at events.
The Lady Warriors open up Dec. 21 at the LaPorte Pairs then enter the new year Jan. 4 at the Elkhart Blazer Invite. Wawasee’s first home meet is Jan. 9 against Fort Wayne Carroll.