Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, and Metea Valley all had individual boys gymnasts that competed at state for the first time.
Michael Baren’s Story
Neuqua Valley gymnast Michael Baren is now a two-time state qualifier… and he’s only a sophomore.
Michael Baren: I was honored to be able to do it for Neuqua and with other teammates because last year was totally different. This was the first year I was really like super excited to do gymnastics.
And that’s because Baren had teammates join him. Not from Neuqua, but from around district 204. Rivals in just about every other sport – the competition fades away when it comes to boys gymnastics.
Michael Baren: We’ve been doing gymnastics with club together for at least three or four years so we’re always rooting for each other to do well. And honestly, I don’t get the rivalries between schools. Yeah, there’s school pride but if people are doing good, I’m happy for them. They were doing great, I was doing great, it was just awesome.
None of the 204 schools have boys “teams”… only individuals who compete at the sectional and state meets. Though, Baron was able to get his first high school experience at a sophomore meet – fortunately for him.
Michael Baren: At the sophomore meet it’s sophomore level gymnastics, not varsity. So we were kind of the ones to see. Whereas, at sectionals, it’s varsity gymnastics and everyone has crazy skills. And to be thrown in in the heat of everything and be the person that people are watching, it’s gotta be crazy, I can’t imagine.
Baren was joined at the state meet by Metea Valley’s Zach Taylor, Neuqua’s Tyler Clark and Waubonsie’s Sia Nitta. A nice support group, if you will.
Michael Baren: Every gymnastics meet there’s going to be something that doesn’t go your way and its great having people there that knows what it’s like and can empathize with you and help you when you’re down.
Baren still has two more years to improve on his 6th and 7th all-around finishes at state… and at this rate – he should rack up accolades, and maybe some more 204 boys gymnasts teammates.
Naperville Sports Weekly’s Kevin Jackman reports.
Check out the full highlight from state in the Boys Sports Highlights!