When Karyn Domzalski became the head coach of the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls gymnastics team this season, she knew it would be a rebuilding year.
Despite a 1-4 start and having only 11 gymnasts in the entire program, the Bulldogs are already showing signs of progress. In recent weeks, RBHS has notched victories against Fenton on Senior Night and a triangular at Geneseo, complemented by a second-place showing at the Riverside-Brookfield Invitational on Saturday. Vernon Hills edged RBHS 117.46 to 116.90 to win the R-B Invite.
“This is definitely a knock it down and build it back up kind of year for the program,” Domzalski said. “I think we’ll start coming up in the next few years because they are quite a few middle school kids that are looking good who should help us in the future. We’re hoping to have about 30 girls in the program over the next few years.”
In the meantime, senior Alexia Kingzette, juniors Campbell Hayes and Olivia Weimer and sophomores Katie Polanski and Amelia Huebner comprise a small but skilled varsity roster that is developing nicely.
Unfortunately, Kingzette broke her fibula during the R-B Invite and is out for the remainder of the season.
“We all adore Alexia and wanted to have an awesome meet for her,” Weimer said. “Even though our team is small, we are really close and have developed close friendships with each other.”
The team honored Kingzette on Senior Night against Fenton with its best performance of the season.
The Bulldogs won each event en route to a 128.70 to 113.05 victory against the Bison. Polanski won vault (8.90), Weimer placed first in the uneven bars (7.70) and Hayes captured floor (8.20). Polanski and Hayes shared the title on beam (8.15).
“The team performed so well on Senior Night. It was one of our highest scores all season,” Polanski said. “We suffered some injuries at our invite but still performed well considering we were down two members.”
In addition to strong team chemistry, the Bulldogs have benefitted from Domzalski’s coaching experience. She previously worked in various capacities at the highly regarded Illinois Gymnastics Institute in Westmont and also coached in the R-B gymnastics youth program.
“Coach Domzalski is a great coach,” Polanski said. “She has really brought the team together and encourages the girls to work hard every day. She also encourages us to exceed our limits and try new tricks.”
Like the RBHS gymnasts, this season has been a learning process for Domzalski. With the regular season completed, she has a pretty good sense of each gymnast’s ability.
“Campbell is strong on floor exercise and vault,” Domzalski said. “Amelia’s best events are balance beam and floor. Katie also performs very well on beam and Olivia is probably our strongest all-arounder. It’s unfortunate that Alexia got injured because she was so enthusiastic and a good leader all season.”
RBHS will compete in the Sandburg Regional on Monday, February 1. Sandburg Co-op, Hinsdale South, Lemont and Naperville North are the other teams in the regional.
“Our team score is pretty low so unless we have some major breakthroughs, I’m not sure we’ll make it as a team (to the Hinsdale Central Sectional),” Domzalski said. “We’re hoping we can get each of our girls to advance to the sectional in an event or all the all-around.”
Regardless of what happens this postseason, the Bulldogs are headed in the right direction with Domzalski and a promising lineup of gymnasts.
“The season has gone really well for me and the team,” Hayes said. “We have improved in every meet and added new skills to our routines that’s led to higher scores. The team also has a very special bond and we always cheer each other on to do the best we can.
“Karyn’s coaching style has had a very positive impact on our team. I have seen the whole team improve, especially the girls on the junior varsity. Her style of coaching can be tough and strict at times, but we also have a lot of fun and improved so much this season.”