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Sanduski leads Homestead gymnasts back to state

Highlanders finish second in own sectional

Feb. 28, 2012

Injuries had sapped a little of the energy from multi-time Homestead state gymnastics place-winner Cori Sanduski as she entered her senior year this past winter with a new coach in Mike Giles.

Each of the previous three campaigns had been touched by an injury or two, though she was happy to report that she managed to finish all of them.

"But my back was an ongoing issue," she said. "… I just didn't know if I wanted to come out. I thought about it for a time. I still loved the sport, so I did."

And with that decision, the Highlanders' fortunes changed, so much so, that despite a team-wide rash of injuries, including a debilitating concussion and a wrist problem that slowed Sanduski for weeks and weeks, they are going to finish the campaign where they completed it last year: In the WIAA State Meet in Wisconsin Rapids this weekend.

"It's been a tough year for Cori," Giles said, "and we had to talk her back into coming out. I only knew about five of the girls (on the team) when I came out and she was one of them, so that was important.

"And I know things are going OK with us if Cori's walking by and giving me a smile (laughs)."

Getting the team back

A recent return to health of several key athletes didn't hurt either.

"We've gotten our team back two weeks ago" said Giles after the Highlanders qualified with a runner-up finish in their own sectional on Saturday. "They talked about Arrowhead (the eventual sectional champion) and their three injuries. Heck, that was just one week for us this season.

"I always felt that we had a 140-plus (point) team. There was just too much talent out there not to go in that direction. We're not in the best shape that we could be, but we have nearly everyone we need and the morale is high. We're just excited to be in this position."

Sanduski agrees.

"We're putting all our focus on doing well this weekend," she said. "We're very happy to be here."

This is the third straight team trip to state for the Highlanders and their ninth in the century.

The individual competition will start at 5:40 p.m. Friday, and Homestead is well represented. Sanduski and Brittany Emond will compete on balance beam, Sanduski in floor exercise and uneven bars, and Amanda Hopkins and Monica Caputa in vault.

In addition, Emond will take part in the all-around competition.

Saturday's all-important team competition starts at 11 a.m. The Highlanders finished fifth last season as Sanduski was second on both balance beam and floor exercise and fourth on uneven bars.

They qualified with a 141.3 total in the sectional as Arrowhead won with a 141.75 total. The Highlanders edged West Allis (140.75) for the second team qualifying spot.

Floor exercise leading event

The best event for the Highlanders was floor exercise with a 36.45 team total, as Sanduski advanced to state with a second-place score of 9.425. She got support from Emond in eighth (9.15) and Amy Schiman in 12th (9.075).

The next best was vault with a 36.2 as Hopkins advanced with a third-place effort of 9.225 and Caputa did the same with a fifth (9.1). Leigh Berman just missed out on an individual spot by taking seventh (9.025).

Emond tied for third on beam with a 9.05 while Sanduski was fifth (9.025). Sanduski earned her spot on bars with a fifth (9.1) as Berman was eighth (8.9). Emond was fourth in the all-around with a 35.95.

The only thing that would have made things as perfect as they could be in Giles' mind would have been the return of Alex Holtz from her own early season concussion, but it did not work out.

"She's a great kid," Giles said, "but she needs to rest as much as possible and maybe she can come back out for track (this spring). We just want her to be healthy. … But for the rest of the kids, it is just so important for me for them to do well and that's what we're looking to do. We'll prepare, tighten things up a bit and go from there."

Just as Sanduski would like it.

"This is just a very good thing that is happening for us," she said. "I'm very proud of this team, that we were able to pull it together despite all our injuries. To get back to state for the fourth time (for herself) is amazing.

"… We're just very excited."

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