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D-200 gymnasts advance to state Special Olympics

One of Woodstock School District 200’s most colorful sports has just completed its most successful competition yet.

The D-200 Special Olympics rhythmic gymnastics team participated in a regional competition March 10 at Palatine High School. Each of the 10 members who competed won a gold medal in at least one event, qualifying all of them for the state Summer Games held in June at Illinois State University.The Woodstock School District 200 Special Olympics Rhythmic Gymnastics team participated in a regional competition held March 10 at Palatine High School. | Courtesy photo

“This is the first time we’ve had the entire squad qualify,” said Jen Moskowitz, a Creekside Middle School life skills teacher and one of the district’s Special Olympics coaches.

The sport combines tumbling and dance and is performed to music with props that include ropes, hoops, ribbons, clubs and balls. Special Olympics participants compete at three levels, and each level uses a different mix of props. The D-200 students competed at levels one and two. Routines and music are provided by the Special Olympics, so all competitors in each prop category perform the same routines. Competitors can perform in their choice of prop categories or in an all-around category.

Practices began in December, but the girls also practiced on their own, Moskowitz said.  

“They like to be with their friends. They love the performing with the ribbon and performing for each other,” she said. 

The squad members range from third grade to high school juniors and include: Emma Schmit, Cesca Vosconti and Rachel Schilder from Olson Elementary School; Nikki Durante, Maggie Oefelein and Daisy Tolentino from Creekside Middle School; Kaleigh Rogers from Woodstock North High School; and  Delaney King, Abby Zange and Carlie Reuter from Woodstock High School.

The squad’s head coach is Cory Knopik. Other coaches include Dawn Raisor, Kathleen Oefelein and Jeannine Vetter. Three D-200 students also volunteered their time — Alex Muschong and Molly Latellla, eighth-graders at Creekside Middle School, and Woodstock High School senior Sammie King, sister of Delaney King.

This was the second year the King sisters have been involved with the team. 

As an assistant coach, Sammie King taught the routines to the girls and helped them improve their performance. 

“We’d remind them to smile and point their toes,” said Sammie King, who participated in cheerleading and gymnastics as a middle school student.

She plans to become a special education teacher and said the best part of coaching is sharing the girls’ joy at performing. 

“To see them do something they love and watch their smiles when they win a medal is priceless,” Sammie King said.

WHS sophomore Delaney King, who won gold medals in ribbon, clubs and all-around, also earned silver medals in hoop and ball. While ribbon is her favorite event, she enjoys everything about rhythmic gymnastics. 

“It’s fun. I like to be with my friends,” she said.

The members also wore team jackets purchased last year through an anonymous donation. New members this year had the option to purchase a jacket. 

D-200 Special Olympics athletes compete in four events: track, soccer, bocci ball and rhythmic gymnastics.