Wheaton Warrenville co-op a colorful new 'family'


For this season’s new Wheaton Warrenville co-op gymnastics team, a combination of the previous Wheaton Warrenville South and Wheaton North co-op programs, the unifying color has become purple.
The feeling around the gym, however, already is true blue.
“I think we’ve combined really well. I think we get along really well, better than I imagined, so I’m really excited for that,” said Wheaton Warrenville South senior and tri-captain Stephanie Schmanski. “We wanted to be a little bit different and I think purple (for our leotards) works. I think everyone likes the purple.”
District 200 budget cuts resulted in Wheaton Warrenville South’s team combining with Wheaton North co-op team, which consisted of Wheaton North and West Chicago athletes. Of the 24 girls in the program, 13 are from Wheaton Warrenville South, nine from Wheaton North and two from West Chicago.
Who is from what school isn't evident during their practices at Wheaton Warrenville South under Maureen Latimer, Wheaton Warrenville South's head coach the previous three seasons who is in her 10th seson with the program.
“I think just having fun and being a big family is the best part of it all, that we all get along so well,” said senior and fourth-year varsity gymnast Kristina Terry, who attends West Chicago. “I was excited. Competing against South, we always saw that they were a huge family and they always got along really well. We thought coming in with them would even be a bigger family and it would be more fun this season.”
Schmanski and junior Emily Cook already had been named captains for Wheaton Warrenville South near the end of the Tigers’ 2009-10 season, well before the school board’s decision in April. Terry joined them after being a captain for Wheaton North co-op.
“They’re gotten along very well (as a group). There hasn’t been any issues with, ‘You’re a (Wheaton North) Falcon,’ or ‘You’re a (West Chicago) Wildcat.’ They’ve done pretty well,” Latimer said. “It’s been a pretty good transition. I have to say the kids made it really easy because they’re just gymnasts. They just want to work hard and improve. Even looking at these two (girls practicing) right there, they’re not looking at each other being from different schools. They’re just teammates. They don’t seem to notice.”
District 200 has co-op teams for boys gymnastics and swimming teams, which practice at Wheaton College because neither Wheaton high school has a pool. In the same manner, the Wheaton North and West Chicago gymnasts are responsible in getting to Wheaton Warrenville South for practices and meets.
Former Wheaton North co-op gymnasts are used to the procedure, having practiced in the past at GymNasti, a club located in Carol Stream, just north of Wheaton. Latimer starts practices 15 minutes later than past seasons to accommodate the commuters.
“The only thing I found different and difficult was that we’re at a gym in a school and we used to work out at GymNasti, where they had a pit and more equipment. I’ve had a pretty easy time getting used to it,” Terry said.
Latimer also teaches at Wheaton Warrenville South and worked with the high school's budget committee, but she said the gymnastics merger came as a surprise when she found out about the possibility a couple of weeks before the actual decision.

“I just thought about it a few times because the boys (gymnastics) team is combined,” Schmanski said. “They’ve always had a co-op as long as I’ve been in high school, so I wondered why we didn’t have one, but I never thought it would actually happen. But I’m glad it did.
"I was really excited because I heard there were a lot of great girls from (Wheaton) North and West Chicago. I’d see Kristina in competition over the years and I was excited to get to work with her.”
During the summer, the three captains met in the Wheaton Warrenville South school library with Latimer and made their first big decision – new leotards.
The varsity’s leotards are purple, white and black. The junior varsity’s are purple and black.
“We didn’t want to peg a color that was just for South (black and orange) or just for Wheaton North (blue and yellow) or West Chicago (dark blue and white),” Terry said. “We decided to take one neutral color that everybody would like and it just ended up being purple.”
Schmanski created a Facebook page where everybody could become familiar with each other and discuss their new skills and ones they’re working on. New teammates also became better acquainted during open gyms during the fall at Wheaton Warrenville South. To help gymnasts become even closer, they have combined team group activities with four small “families,” combinations of varsity and JV athletes.
The new co-op couldn’t have come with better timing. No team cuts were necessary. This also was the lowest turnout of Wheaton Warrenville South gymnasts during Latimer’s tenure. Usually the Tigers had about 28 to 30 girls each season by themselves.
“I lost some varsity members to other activities. And JV members as well,” Latimer said.  “Sometimes they’re just trying different activities. I don’t think anyone said it was because of a (new) co-op, though.”
Latimer remained head coach and Ashley Realmuto as her assistant. Wheaton North co-op head coach Lee Wood, also a club coach, became head coach at nearby Glenbard South for this season after Donna Murphy already had stepped down. Assistant coach and former head coach Steve Young has remained as the assistant.
Wood has kept in touch with his former Wheaton North co-op gymnasts, yet they’ve also room to grow with their new teams. The only time Wheaton Warrenville co-op and Glenbard South are at the same regular-season meet was the Illinois Best Invitational back on Dec. 18 at Wheaton Warrenville South. This season, there also are only three seniors – one from each school – Schmanski, Terry and Wheaton North’s Jaide Roberts on the JV team.
Before the merger, Schmanski had a feeling she might be the only senior remaining on her team.
“I was little nervous because I wasn’t going to have my same friends,” Schmanski said, “but I made new friends.”