Candis Kowalik has been doing gymnastics at a high level for a long time so she knew when she entered the high-school ranks that she’d be good.
But this was better than good.
Kowalik, a freshman at Warwick Vets, won the individual championship at the state gymnastics meet then finished second at the New England championships.
“It was really exciting,” Kowalik said. “I didn't expect it. I knew I was going to do well because a lot of the girls up top, I've competed with. I knew I was going to do pretty good, but not that good.”
Kowalik has been doing gymnastics since she was 3 years old. She wasn’t a star at first, but as she stuck with it, something clicked. Competing for Warwick Dance & Gymnastics, she became a regular on the club scene in the state and the region.
At Vets, she immediately became a standout, and as the year went on, she started to emerge as the favorite for the state championship, despite her youth.
Still, there was a long way to go.
“She was ranked first out of all the kids, so we knew that she would be near the top,” said head coach Angela Cidade. “But she also hadn’t competed against some of the girls that were going to be her strong competition [at states]. We knew she would hopefully place top six, but we didn’t really know where. To see her in first is really exciting.”
Kowalik followed up the state title with a second-place overall finish at New Englands, where she was hoping to just grab a medal in an event or two.
Next year, Kowalik will aim high again. She’s hoping to win another title and set a new all-time state meet scoring record. At the club level, she’s hoping to qualify for Level 10 Nationals.
Even with all that success and all those goals, Kowalik’s best memories from her big debut revolve around the team at Vets.
“When it comes to club gymnastics, it's more individual,” Kowalik said. “When I came to Vets, we compete as a team and do everything as a team. It was a great experience.”