A typical two-hour practice for the gymnastics team involves around 30 minutes of stretching and flexibility training plus spending nearly as much time setting up mats and equipment.
The young gymnasts are hard at work throughout their winter season getting in necessary physical and mental shape to take on some of the best high school gymnastics programs in Nassau County.
“I think it’s one the harder sports to compete in,” said Wantagh gymnastics head coach Eileen Keener.
In addition to practices from 7 to 9 p.m. in a small gymnasium at , the dedicated gymnasts, many who have been competing since being barely old enough to walk, manage to keep up with the heavy academic demands that come with being a student.
"It takes true dedication,” said junior Ellen Charalambous, the oldest member of a young Lady Warrior squad who has been competing in gymnastics since age two and has battled through injuries this year with five screws now in her ankle. “You have to work hard and stay focused and can’t let little injuries get in the way. You have to work past that.”
“It is all so mental,” said freshman Gina Ciappina. “I always try not to psyche myself out.”
With two matches remaining, Wantagh (2-5) is battling to be one of the top eight teams in Conference I, which would qualify them for next month’s Nassau County championship meet. Keying the team’s postseason hopes are all-around performers Charalambous, Ciappina, freshman Lauren O’Mara and eighth grader Gillian Chowske. As all-around performers they are counted on to compete in every meet event, which includes balance beam, floor exercise, uneven bars and the vault.
“We work really well together,” said Chowske referring to the team’s chemistry on and off the gymnastics floor.
Wantagh’s final home match of the season is scheduled for Jan. 30 against Oceanside at Wantagh Middle School starting at 7 p.m. The Warriors’ final regular season match is scheduled for Jan. 31 at Massapequa at starting at 5 p.m.