ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – When you think of sports, you might think of a large team. As a team of only three, Wylie High School’s (WHS) gymnastics is already proving a name for themselves. All within the first year as a team, these three girls have placed top three in all local meets, and even won one of those meets. This places them in spot five at the regional level.
The team includes ninth-grader Chloe McGary, 10th-grader Abby Cribbs, and 12th-grader Lorelei Standley.
Before the team was formed, Coach Justin Powers told KTAB/KRBC he coached the girls for years in club gymnastics at the Gymnastics Sports Center, where he was head coach for 10 years. So, it was an easy transition to coaching the Wylie gymnastics team.
“I already knew all their strengths and weaknesses of the girls, and I knew what they could do really strongly, and it made it easier that they knew each other for a long time… To kinda build that teamwork with each other,” said Powers.
Gymnastics is well known to be a very intense sport, and Powers said it was a tough transition from club gymnastics to competing at a high school level.
“They had a lot to learn about the high school environment,” Powers explained. “It’s very loud, it’s very supportive… You have to be flexible; you have to be strong, you have to use your arms on bars, your legs on floor and vault. It’s just really demanding.”
Prior to the 2022-2023 school year, Wylie didn’t have a gymnastics team. One sponsor for WHS’s gymnastics team, Heather Giles, has several titles in addition to sponsor: Wylie alum, mom, and former gymnast. During her time at WHS, she said she’d always wished she could have competed, but the district was too small at the time.
“The district has grown tremendously,” said Giles, comparing hers and her daughter’s times with Wylie ISD. “They have expanded, there’s tons of sports and extracurricular activities.”
Wanting her 5th grader to have that experience, Giles went to the school board to propose the idea last year:
“[I] Just proposed the idea and said, ‘you know, we got talented girls, and we got kids from Wylie that played in super bowls, and why can’t we have kids from Wylie that got to compete as bulldogs that might compete at the collegiate or Olympic level someday?'”
Jana McGary is Chloe’s mom and a teacher at Wylie Junior High. She, alongside Giles, helped establish the program. As a Wylie gymnastics sports sponsor, McGary said the team felt the pressure.
“There was three of them and you always take the top three scores from a team, so all the girls scores counted every time, and they were going against teams that had 12 to 15 girls,” McGary spelled out.
The team finished top three in all meets except regionals and state. They won first place at the meet in Odessa.
“When we heard it (their names), [we] all looked at each other and just screamed because it was super exciting,” said Abby, Wylie sophomore and gymnast.
Being a third of Wylie’s first gymnastics team, Chloe said she’s honored to have that title, “It was really exciting knowing I would be one of the original people on the team because I’ve watched older girls do it from different schools. Now that I have younger people at Wylie watching me do it, it’s been really exciting.”
As the only senior on the team, Lorelei told KTAB/KRBC she’s honored to have the opportunity to grow as an athlete.
“It was really cool and fun,” Lorelei vouched. “It was cool to be able to do more gymnastics. When we won, that was exciting.”
All three girls said through coaching from Powers, they have gotten to do things they didn’t think possible. Powers said he’s expecting the team to grow largely next school year, but these girls will always hold a special place in his heart.
“We’re really excited for the support Wylie High School and all the faculty and administrators have given us for our first year,” added Powers. “We’re excited to move forward with that.”