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Sports Person of the Week
Cika Striving for Sophomore Success on the Gymnastics Mat
Kendra Cika had a breakout year with the Valley Regional gymnastics team last season and is aiming for even better performances as a sophomore. (Photo courtesy of Kendra Cika)
Kendra Cika is making significant contributions for the Valley Regional gymnastics team. A sophomore, Kendra recorded some important scores when the Warriors finished first at last year’s Shoreline Conference Championship, and she’s hoping to improve on those performances to help Valley repeat in 2021.
Kendra will always remember when the Warriors secured the Shoreline title. It was a big day for the program and an especially memorable performance for Kendra, who scored an 8.0 on the vault, 7.9 on the floor, 7.3 on the beam, and a 5.9 on the bars as a freshman.
“Winning Shorelines last year was super fun. It felt really good to be recognized that year,” Kendra says. “My scores were counted for that, so I felt like I had a part in making it happen.”
Valley’s roster featured no seniors, or even juniors for that matter, last season. Kendra believes that bodes well for the Warriors as they return nearly their entire roster for this year. Except this time, Valley has even more experience under its belt. Plus, there are also a bunch of new freshmen joining the squad.
“Our team is even bigger this year. I think we have at least 10 girls now. Last year, we were only freshman and sophomores. Now, we have more experience,” says Kendra. “I think we have a pretty good chance to win Shorelines again.”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause problems across the sporting landscape and the world at large, providing some challenges for the Warriors as they enter the 2021 campaign. Kendra has been keeping up with her conditioning through virtual meetings set up by coaches Monica Bauer and Carl Cavrell.
“We have Zoom calls about conditioning, so that when we got back into the gym, we didn’t lose that much. I think we’re stronger now, and we’re a bit more improved,” Kendra says. “When I was doing Xcel, we were doing Zoom calls two or three days a week. We did different exercises. Some days we focused on muscles for bars, then we focused on vault muscles. We kept our bodies in shape so that we were ready to go back.”
It was crucial for Kendra and her teammates to do as much conditioning as possible. Even just a little down time can have a big impact on a gymnast’s abilities.
“For gymnasts, if you take a week off, it’s tough to get those skills back. Going right back into working hard kept us on track,” Kendra says. “Coach Bauer was really great in setting that up for us. We had our team on these calls, and I think we came out stronger as a team. It was a big benefit.”
Kendra excels when competing on the beam, but her favorite event is the floor, because of the way it allows her to express her creativity.
“My favorite event is the floor, but I compete best on the beam. With the floor, I really like the performing aspect. I have fun doing my routine and coming up with the different pieces of it. I just really like to perform in that way,” says Kendra, who lives in Essex. “For beam, I think I perform pretty well under pressure. Beam is definitely the most stressful event. I lot of people will say it’s the hardest event, but because it’s so hard, it helps me focus. I try to focus on one skill at a time, and I think that helps me stay on the beam.”
Coach Bauer enjoys what Kendra brings to the table for the Warriors. Bauer thinks that Kendra will be a competitor to watch this year, because of the promise that she already showed as a freshman, along with the tremendous work she displayed during the offseason.
“Kendra is a positive team player. She is and asset to the team and is supportive and inclusive,” Coach Bauer says. “She has been working hard, and we look forward to seeing what she does this season. I anticipate her competing in the all-around.”
Kendra only got her start competing in gymnastics within the last few years, but she’s had great experiences while competing for both the Warriors and independently in the Xcel program at Flip-Flop Gymnastics. Kendra’s athletic career actually began on the soccer field, and she’s currently a member of the Valley girls’ soccer team.
“I’ve only been doing gymnastics seriously for four years. High school is more fun and less stressful. It’s more of a teamwork thing, since we compete as a team, not individually like Xcel. We try to help each other with what skills and requirements can get you the best points,” says Kendra says. “Unlike gymnastics, I’ve been doing soccer since I was little. My mom was my coach when I was young. I play on the right or left wing in the midfield. I’ve been doing soccer for a long time, but gymnastics are new, interesting, and more creative.”
Even though each sport is different, Kendra feels that some of the aspects of gymnastics benefit her on the soccer field and vice versa.
“In gymnastics, you need good balance for beam, and you need that balance when you’re running with the ball to keep on your feet and in the play. In soccer, there’s a lot of strength and endurance, and that helps on the floor to keep going and not get tired in the middle of your routine,” Kendra says. “Also, the flexibility needed in gymnastics can help to prevent injury in soccer. It’s really different, though. In gymnastics, we practice so much for a short routine. For soccer, you aren’t practicing for one particular thing, just a lot of different things, because anything can happen.”
There probably isn’t a better description for the past year than “anything can happen.” Consequently, Kendra has taken stock of why she chooses to compete, especially after her soccer season was abruptly shut down.
“I play soccer because I enjoy it, and that’s also why I do gymnastics. It’s not necessarily about competing in the games. It’s about learning, improving, and the experiences that you gain along the way,” says Kendra, who thanks her coaches and teammates for their support. “I’m a super competitive person, but stepping back after this year, I’ve looked at the other aspects that aren’t just about winning.”