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TROJAN GYMNASTICS: Strong team bond key to Trojans success

Jeff Arenz/Daily Globe Trojan gymnastics members put their hands in for a team cheer to show the strength of their bond as teammates. From left, Maria Contreras, Paige Kinley, Anna Koepsell and Liz Hayenga.

WORTHINGTON -- Varying levels of talent and experience have the Worthington gymnastics team off to a 3-2 start this season.

Senior Anna Koepsell, junior Paige Kinley, eighth-grader Liz Hayenga and seventh-grader Maria Contreras have sparked the Trojans by combining their gymnastics traits in the all-around.

Kinley enjoys the personalities of her teammates.

"We bond really together," Kinley said. "When we're competing, we root for each other and I think that gives us positive momentum."

Koepsell agreed.

"We seemed to be more focused and we all get along really well," Koepsell said. "Being so focused in practice and practicing our routines cleanly really helps us be successful in our meets."

To compete in the all-around, a prep gymnast is entered in four different events -- the balance beam, the uneven parallel bars, the floor exercise and the vault.

Despite dropping a dual meet against Martin County on Tuesday, Worthington posted its highest team point-total of the season, a 132.8.

Kinley, who was second in the all-around Tuesday, posted 35.475 points to lead the Trojans. Contreras finished third in the all-round, contributing 32.6 points.

Hayenga said she has learned a lot about gymnastics during the last year.

"I've learned how to do sukes on vault and twisting on (the) floor (exercise)," Hayenga said.

That translated into a fourth-place effort for Hayenga (31.45) in the all-around Tuesday.

Koepsell ended up out of the all-around top four Tuesday, but has finished inside of it several times this season. She was the runner-up in the floor exercise Tuesday with 8.925 points to lead Worthington.

Contreras, the youngest of the Trojans' quartet, has had success in her first varsity season.

"I wanted to try gymnastics," Contreras said. "During the summer, I watched the U.S. gymnasts compete in the Olympics. I knew then that I wanted to try it because it looked like a lot of fun on TV."

Contreras said she watched Jordyn Wieber, who won a gold medal with the U.S. squad at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and was inspired to try out for Worthington's gymnastics team.

Hayenga and Contreras have a lot of time on their side.

"As the younger girls get this experience when they are so young, they will be able carry it on throughout their following years," Koepsell said. "They won't be nervous to carry out their routines when they become seniors."

Koepsell offered some advice to her teammates.

"They need to keep practicing hard and don't take anything for granted," Koepsell said. "This season is my last one and there are so many more things that I wish I could learn. Don't waste your time when you're young because you will regret it."

Kinley knows the top gymnasts maintain their mental focus.

"The hardest thing about being a gymnast is that you always have to be mentally strong," Kinley said. "Your body is capable of doing most of the physical things in gymnastics. If your head isn't into it, then there is no way that you can succeed."

Right now, the Trojans are focused on success.