WEST SALEM, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Every year the West Salem-Aquinas co-op gymnastics team continues to raise the bar for area gymnasts--a point of pride for head coach Amy DuPont.
"We've taken a team to state the past five years in a row and six of the eight that we've coached," she said.
That's why it's so hard to believe that the program's future faces such uncertainty. Due to a lack of numbers--only three gymnasts between the two schools committed to come out next season--the West Salem school board voted to suspend the program for the 2012-2013 school year.
"My fear is that people hear you're suspending the program and find other things to do," DuPont said, "But you know, you've got to cross your fingers and hope that doesn't happen."
West Salem Athletics Director LeRoy Krall doesn't think it will. He said the gymnastics program, like many sports do, is experiencing the downside of a constant "ebb and flow" of numbers.
Krall said, "With gymnastics, it's one of those sports where you never have huge numbers, so when you get to one of those low-points, all of the sudden it becomes: is the program viable anymore? I think if our football program dropped down to 12-15 kids, we'd be looking at the same kind of scenario here."
But, it's unlikely to see that scenario in football because of strong middle school programs that feed the high school teams. No direct feeder program for gymnastics leads to low numbers.
"If they've never done it, there are a lot of kids that are intimidated. They're not going to come out as freshmen and just try it," DuPont said.
Even if they did, Krall said "if's" don't work in budgets. Especially when it costs the schools a combined $12,000 to run the program.
"So, if you think about 3 kids and $12,000, it's about $4,000 per athlete," said Krall. "No sport has that kind of number or dollar figure to their athletes."
DuPont said, "But, what are they going to miss out on? What skills are they not going to learn this year to make it to state their senior year, to help their team make it to state, to help their team medal at state? it's disappointing for those kids."
One of those kids is Kami Doberstein. The team voted the 16-year-old Aquinas sophomore captain, and Kami says losing the season makes her upcoming role even more difficult.
"I've only been competing since seventh grade, so I'm still getting used to it kind of. And, being injured I was out for months, so I haven't had as much competitive experience as I would like," Doberstein said.
Still, she's choosing instead to focus on the bright side.
"A year off will be kind of nice in some ways, so I can get back from my injury," she said. "But, in other ways it really stinks because I won't be competing at all for another year. But, we'll get back."
In the meantime, Doberstein said she'll continue training with DuPont whenever and wherever she can, working to stick the dismount, and steady the team's balance.
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