GENEVA – In a sport like gymnastics, team accomplishments can be easily overshadowed by individual performances. At high school meets, each athlete represents her school, but it’s individual results – and those only – that determine final team standings.
That makes it all the more impressive what Geneva girls gymnastics coach Kim Hostman has done in her 13-year tenure with the Vikings. With a team-first mentality, Geneva celebrated a fifth-place finish at the 2013 IHSA State meet without an individual athlete scoring among the top finalists.
Hostman took over a program with minimal expectations and morphed it into one that aspires to annually compete and place well at the IHSA State meet. The veteran coach attributes much of the program’s success to doing things together as a team, whether it’s training, working out or just hanging out.
“The girls are very close. We have two seniors, two juniors a sophomore and a freshman, and the freshman [Claire Rose Ginsberg] happens to be the sister of one of them [Grace] so that’s really nice because she fits right in,” Hostman said. “They are a really close, dynamic group and they’re really focused on what our goals are.”
The Vikings’ family atmosphere has had added meaning the last couple of years with the Ginsbergs – junior Grace, freshman Claire and recently graduated Jenna – adding to the close-knit environment. The current Ginsberg tandem has helped Geneva light up the scoreboard as the Vikings recently won the prestigious Red Devil Invite along with taking first at Glenbard East.
At the Red Devil Invite, Claire Ginsburg won the vault (9.6), beam (9.45) and floor (9.4) while taking second (9.0) to Geneva’s Dominique Brognia (9.150) in the bars to earn the all around win with a 37.50. Brognia’s 35.775 was good for second overall as Geneva won the overall Invite title with a 141.925, eclipsing the 140.0 goal that Hostman hoped for.
“We’re definitely pushing each other each week and at each meet; we started off really well, which is a good thing and our scores are getting higher and higher with each meet,” Brognia said. “The team is really close; outside of practice we’ll have team bonding things like sleepovers or we’ll go out to get frozen yogurt as a team to get closer.”
Brognia was close with the eldest Ginsberg sister, Jenna, who is now a track athlete at Saint Louis University. The wisdom imparted by Jenna along with 2013 graduate and team captain Ashley Puff has helped Brognia lead the talented Vikings.
“Dom is our main all arounder – she sort of leads the group and she does really well. She was strong last year and this year she has really taken that role on. With Dom being an all-arounder, the girls have really looked up to her,” Hostman said. “It was hard losing our captain from last year Ashley Puff and the other Ginsberg sister Jenna. To lose them but have the rest of our crew step up has been really good. ”
The Vikings knew what they had in Brognia, but the emergence of Claire Ginsberg has helped Geneva push past expectations from a score-standpoint. Hostman’s goal setting for each meet has given the Vikings a yardstick to try and hit, and they’ve done so successfully at every turn.
“We were most excited about the team win (at the Red Devil Invite) because we came out tired the night before (at DeKalb),” Claire Ginsberg said. “We kind of hit the standards for this season at that meet so hopefully we can eventually do better than that. It’s a good feeling when you can win a meet (individually) but nothing feels as good as winning as a team.”
While sleepovers and frozen yogurt undoubtedly bring a team closer, it’s the work the team puts in during practice and events that matters most. Hostman puts an enormous emphasis throughout the year on physical conditioning, with a lot of time spent at practice working on cardio, stretching, abs and overall strength. Hostman believes the focus on training throughout the grueling year will help when it matters most – the postseason.
“In the summer we have a camp we do and then we get back at it in the fall. During season, we work out everyday from 3-6 p.m.; we do cardio and stretch together and do a lot of conditioning to keep their bodies strong,” Hostman said. “We do a lot of running and weightlifting – and they strive to get better in it, and it shows in the girls. If we can keep them healthy, that’s key to going deep into the postseason.”
If Geneva continues eclipsing Hostman’s goals, the Vikings could achieve the ultimate team goal – winning state. No matter what happens, the Vikings will do it as a family.