Tanya Hertogs | Photo by Bill Stone

After qualifying for her first girls gymnastics sectional in February, Riverside Brookfield High School junior Tanya Hertogs is seeking new heights on the balance beam this season.

“If I get to sectionals again, I’ll be happy. If I get to state, I’ll be the happiest gymnast alive,” Hertogs said. 

“My dream is to make it up on that wall for state qualifiers in the [school] hallway.”

The Bulldogs are hoping for similar breakthrough seasons with a relatively young but extremely enthusiastic group.

Juniors Reese Phelan and Bella Cruz and sophomore Kayla Janusz also have varsity experience for the Bulldogs, who open their season with Hinsdale South’s Hornet Invitational Wednesday.

“Our goal is to get as much as we can and as far as we can and see how the team works together,” RBHS coach Karyn Domzalski said. 

“The best thing is the team has brought in a very positive vibe. Everyone has a really good idea of where they want to go and what they want to do. They all kind of blend well with each other.” 

Reese Phelan

Last year’s team was third at the Geneva Regional (128.85 points) after a season-high 133.05 to finish second at the Upstate Eight Conference Meet and second overall.

At regionals, Hertogs scored a season-high 8.05 on beam to be among the Bulldogs’ three individual qualifiers for the Hinsdale South Sectional. Junior Lia Christiansen, a state qualifier on vault, and senior Annabel Krueger did not return.

Hertogs was 35th at sectionals (7.45). Domzalski said she believes Hertogs can also advance in other events.

“It’s definitely motivated me. Unfortunately, I fell on beam [at sectionals] but I still got there and if anything it made me more excited for this season,” Hertogs said. 

“I’ve been training harder and harder every day. I’ve been holding extra conditioning sessions. I’ve been training by myself at home. I’m hoping I can get [to state] this year.”

Phelan competed at 2022 regionals and would have last season if not for being out of town. Freshman Paige Phelan, Reese’s sister, is among varsity newcomers, along with seniors Queniya Booker and Claudia Tello from the junior varsity and sophomore Natalia Maruska.

Besides the challenges of many newcomers, Domzalski is overseeing all levels without an assistant coach.

“We [generally] use a lot of all-arounders but this year it might be a slower start. We’re going to go slow and steady,” she said. 

“We’ve got a lot of new freshmen, some with and some without experience. It’ll be interesting to see how the year goes.”