Bailey Mast wants her gymnasts to have fun, compete and create wonderful memories.
The former assistant coach at Oswego co-op has replaced Sarah Dugan as head coach. Dugan got married and moved out of state after serving as head coach for 10 seasons.
“She’ll come back and check in every once in a while even though she’s in Tennessee,” Mast said. “She’ll still give me some help when I need it.”
Mast could certainly use some more gymnasts – although she has a lot of confidence in the 10 that she has, which includes just three upperclassmen. A reason for optimism is that everyone returns from last year and the team also welcomes a handful of freshmen and one particularly strong junior all-arounder.
“I’m really glad to see all the girls back from last year, along with some new ones,” Mast said. “It’s awesome to see and the new girls have blended in so well with the rest of the team and we’ve got some great skills from all of the girls.”
Sophomores Ellina Butolph and Alexis Salinas and juniors Kaylee Gatenby and Claire Barenie all advanced to a sectional as individuals last year. All four gymnasts returned this year. Sophomore Cassidy Max and junior Sofia Panza also remain on the team.
Butolph (33.6) and Max (32.15) were the team’s top two all-arounders in last year’s conference meet. Gatenby would’ve competed as an all-arounder but was limited due to injuries. The team still was able to score a 129.1.
Once again, a few freshmen will be asked to step in and compete right away. Emilia Doyle, Jordyn Novack and Genna Peters are all in their first season and Novack also competed on the varsity in the Downers Grove North Big Purple on Dec. 2.
The team’s most prized addition is sophomore Kaitlyn Penzone, who brings a recent club background and a ton of talent into the gym. Penzone took fourth place in the all-around (34.575) during her debut Nov. 22 in the Hinsdale South Hornet Thanksgiving Invite and scored slightly higher (34.875) in the Big Purple as the team placed 10th.
“I think she was ready to give something else a shot and for a lot of girls their clubs get smaller so they’re ready for a change,” Mast said. “She actually competes at a Level 10 so she brings in a lot of skill.”
She’s also fit in nicely while giving the team an excellent score in all four events.
“She had already worked with some of the girls in different gyms so they all get along very well,” Mast said. “And Jordyn (Novack) actually worked out with the team when she was in seventh grade. They all have their goals, but also the fun factor is something they have in their minds.”
If injuries hadn’t sidelined her, senior manager Korey Nickel may have been able to team up with Penzone for quite the 1-2 scoring punch. Instead, she’ll be limited to a manager’s role, something that’s not the same as competing, but most definitely not taken for granted in this program.
“Korey used to be a Level 10, but has had some injuries, but still wanted to be a part of the team,” Mast said. “So she’s taken a manager’s position and she’s worked with Kaitlyn before so it’s nice to have her here.”
Mast also has two new assistant coaches.
“We’re all positive and are working to help the girls achieve their goals,” she said. “So far it seems to be working. The coaches seem to work well with the them and the girls seem to be doing well.”
Oswego co-op will head to the DeKalb Invite on Friday and host the Panther Invite on Dec. 22.