Gymnastics Athlete of the Year
A broken ankle kept Candis Kowalik from having another dream season.
But it was one of her best seasons anyway, despite the fact that she didn’t get a chance to defend her state title. Her Vets gymnastics team had the best season it’s had in years, and the squad was as close-knit as any Kowalik has ever been on.
“This year, we had a lot more teamwork,” Kowalik said. “A lot of the girls came together, we started practicing hard. We really started to look good out there. We became like sisters.”
That’s not an easy perspective to have for a gymnast who has never settled for anything less than the best. Kowalik came to Vets as one of the top club gymnasts in the state and she won the individual state championship in her freshman season.
But when she broke her ankle late in the season, the realization that she was still part of something special really kicked in.
“It was amazing to be a part of it,” Kowalik said.
And Kowalik certainly did her part. Before the injury, she was Vets’ top scorer in every meet and she would have been the favorite to win another championship.
She also set the tone for the ‘Canes – and it was hard for her teammates not to be sparked by her success.
“I definitely felt like I needed to be the leader of the team because I’m the only one with that much experience,” she said.
Kowalik was always willing to help, sometimes spending all of a Vets practice working with teammates on routines and skills before heading to her own practices at night.
That helped the ‘Canes finish 11-1 and win the Division II regular-season championship.
Kowalik and the ‘Canes think that’s just the beginning. Half-a-dozen experienced gymnasts are set to come to Vets next year, where they’ll join an improving group of gymnasts that already have their team chemistry working well.
“Next year, we should be an even better team,” Kowalik said.
Back on her feet, Kowalik is aiming high in her individual goals, too. She’d like to break the all-time Rhode Island state meet scoring record.
“This year, I was hoping to beat the record, but I didn’t get the chance,” she said. “Next year, hopefully I can do it.”