Entertaining, Yet Painful Start for Sandburg/Stagg
Girls gymnastics coaches adapt to new positions, while gymnasts battle injury bug in the early going.
Kory Kronenberger ran in from the cold rain outside of Neuqua Valley and yelled, "The bus left without me!"
After speaking with a reporter after a triangular on Nov. 29, Kronenberger was the last person from the Sandburg/Stagg co-op team to depart and she thought the team left without her. After careful inspection, she finally located the bus, breathed a sigh of relief and headed back to Orland Park.
Mike White never had to worry about the music that accompanies the floor exercise routines of Sandburg/Stagg. That's probably why he forgot all about it at a freshmen meet in Hinsdale on Nov. 27.
After 19 years as head coach of Sandburg/Stagg, White never had the responsibility of bringing and taking home music. He stepped down at the end of last season and allowed Kronenberger, a former Sandburg/Stagg gymnast and three-year assistant coach, to replace him.
Just as new gymnasts are adapting to the new season, the two coaches also are learning about their positions and trying to have fun with the ups and downs that seemingly come with the new territory.
"Ever since I was in high school, the ultimate goal has been to get to state so that same goal remains," Kronenberger said. "It's good to have Coach White at my side to help me through things and I want to bring it back to the team atmosphere because we've had to kind of rebuild the last couple of years."
Don't expect to see any more of the hoots, hollers and jumps for joy from White. As colorful of a character as you'll find in Illinois high school girls gymnastics, the man who alwasys dresses in shorts wants the team to be Kronenberger's now.
"You don't see me screaming and yelling during routines, because this is Kory's team and I don't want to be a part of that," he said. "She's so nervous that she's afraid that someone is always looking over her shoulder, and I'm holding her shoulder and want her to be successful."
Sandburg/Stagg's gymnasts like the balance afforded them with White and Kronenberger on the sideline. Kronenberger is also a former gymnast who was a part of White's successful program at Sandburg/Stagg. While White's teams won 17 consecutive regional titles, they also included a 2001 team that Kronenberger helped to a fourth-place finish in the state meet.
"They've switched roles and it's nice to have them both here because they bring something different," junior Sarah Mussallem said. "She's done a good job and, having been a gymnast, she knows what she's doing and what it's going to take for us to succeed. Coach White loves to see us doing (well) and is just a fun coach to have."
Senior Alexa Messina, who placed 13th in the state in the all-around last winter, joked with White that she wouldn't return for her final season if he didn't.
"I've been here since freshman year, so I was hoping he stayed," she said. "It's good to have him back and (Kronenbeger) is really motivating and telling us all the time how she was on the team and how she made it to state and what we need to do to make it back."
Messina already knows about getting to state–she was part of the 2009 squad that placed second in the state--so maybe she'll be sharing the same messages with her teammates.
Meanwhile, Lexsis Bailey never performed for White. The junior is a club gymnast who is making the transition to high school competition.
"You can tell that (Kronenberger) knows a lot," Bailey said. "I feel she's nice and helps push us."
White admits that he probably wouldn't have stepped down as head coach if not for Kronenberger being both a former Sandburg/Stagg gymnast and assistant coach, as well as her desire to be a head coach.
"If anyone else would have been my assistant, I wouldn't have gotten out," White said. "I want her to be a successful head coach. and I'll feel very good when she's successful, but she'll have to deal with the rough times. I had to deal with them before and she'll have to deal with them, too."
It hasn't taken long for Kronenberger to have to deal with her first major adversity. Mussallem and Messina were injured in a Dec. 1 dual meet at Hinsdale Central. As both leaders on the sideline and in competition, the rest of the team appeared to sulk after the injuries. While it's difficult to replace such high-caliber talent, the team is going to have to find some gymnasts to fill those two spots for however long they are out.
Sandburg/Stagg placed 11th place on Saturday in the 12-team Mike Williams Big Purple Invite at Downers Grove North. Kronenberger didn't miss the bus, White didn't forget the music and a number of different gymnasts filled in for Messina, while Mussallem was able to bounce back and compete in everything but the floor exercise.
Lessons already are being learned.