The Warwick co-op gymnastics team has made plenty of noise this winter season, boasting a 10-1 record with next month’s state championship meet quickly approaching.
After taking second place at states last season, the Pilgrim-Toll Gate co-op had a new look this time around. Between a new coach in Division III National Champion Candis Kowalik, two key seniors and a handful of underclassmen stepping into big roles, this year’s club once again looks poised to compete against the other top teams across the state.
“We have a young team but our two seniors (Hailey Fera and Anna DeMenezes) have been excellent in both gymnastics and being leaders as well. When we first started, pretty much everyone had to work on their consistency, but those two also compete in club gymnastics and have really helped us pull it all together. They have been very strong athletes for us,” said Kowalik.
Kowalik has been impressed by her younger athletes’ development this season and expects them to continue to come up big down the stretch as well.
“Lucky for me, I have a lot of girls with plenty of gymnastics experience. A lot of them could compete in every event if they wanted to. Other than our two seniors, our sophomores and juniors have been our biggest contributors. They have been phenomenal,” said Kowalik.
Things were not always easy for the team, who lost to Cranston in its second meet of the year.
Although Warwick went through some early growing pains, it has rebounded and currently sits in second place behind just the undefeated Cranston squad.
“I wasn’t quite sure how things would go at the beginning. We won our first meet and then lost our second, so I wasn’t sure. We went from being the loudest team in the gym to the (quietest). The next weekend though, I started to learn their routines which helped, then they really began to take my corrections and to pay attention to detail,” said Kowalik. “Right now, we should be in position to make it to the state meet, I am really proud of everything they have accomplished this season.”
Kowalik, a former three-time state champion for Vets, won the NCGA All-Around title and led the College at Brockport to a team title last spring. After graduating, Kowalik planned on remaining in the sport with hopes of opening her own gym in the future.
When the head coaching vacancy opened prior to the winter season, Kowalik jumped at the opportunity and has been thrilled ever since.
“I was very confident in my gymnastics knowledge but was pretty nervous about everything else, you are in charge of everything when it comes to the kids,” said Kowalik. “Now, after a few months, with the relationships and bonds that I have built with the kids, I am very confident in my ability to coach and it has been an amazing process.”