The list of extraordinary athletes attending area high schools is a long one, with Stevenson High boys basketball player Jalen Brunson probably being the best known.
Most of these top-end athletes become household names while wearing jerseys from their respective high school teams.
But not all of them.
In several sports, club teams have taken a leadership role in terms of developing athletes for the next level. This is most evident in the sports of soccer, tennis and gymnastics.
A couple of years ago, three of the Final Four teams in the NCAA women’s national soccer tournament had players on their teams who attended area high schools, yet none of the three players had ever worn a high school jersey. They all were club players.
In gymnastics, club teams thrive during the high school season (November-February) for two reasons:
1) The local high school that a great gymnast attends doesn’t have a team.
2) A great gymnast doesn’t want to give up being coached by their club team’s leaders for three months, which is what they have to do to be part of the high school team. That’s not a knock at high school coaching for, who knows a young gymnast better than the club coach who’s been working with him/her six days a week every week for years?
Which brings us to Warren High School senior Emily Basara, a Level 10 gymnast who would be a high school star, except she decided to be a Ultimate Gymnastics club team star instead.
How’s it worked out for her?
Recently, Emily made a verbal commitment to join the women’s gymnastics team next year at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
NIU is a middle-of-the-pace program in the Mid-American Conference, so you have to believe that Emily joining that team will be a program upgrade.
Ironically, Emily is joining a program next year that a former Warren High student has just left. Kim Gotlund just completed a stellar gym career at NIU, and she did it after having a solid high school career competing for Warren.
So clearly, there’s more than one way to make this gym thing work.
Here’s the internet “scouting report,” so to speak, on Emily.
At Ultimate Gymnastics, Emily is coached by Shane Sanders, Steve Kams and Brandi Taylor.
“Emily began competing Level 9 in 2011 and finished fourth at regionals in the all-around, qualifying her to the Level 9 Easterns Championships. At Easterns, she was able to stand on the award podium with a fifth-place finish on beam.
“In 2012, she repeated Level 9 and was the alternate to Easterns.
“In 2013, Emily jumped up to Level 10 and had success winning all-around and event titles throughout the season. She finished third all-around at state and sixth at regionals, qualifying her to JO Nationals in her first year.
“Emily made huge improvements to her gymnastics leading into the 2014 season and it showed in her competitions. She was no stranger to the first- place podium winning all-around titles at almost every regular- season meet and continued that streak at state winning the all-around and bars (once her weakest event).
“At regionals, the winning continued as she took home gold on bars in her age group and finished seventh all-around qualifying to her second consecutive JO Nationals. She finished in the top 25 in the all-around.”
On her own website, Emily wrote this about the sport she’s become so accomplished at:
“I love the challenge of this sport and the determination it takes to get new skills. I love the thrill of competition and getting to compete with other great gymnasts,” she said.
“It is very rewarding when you see all your hard work pay off. Gymnastics has taught me so much, including how to be dedicated, how to be focused and discipline, and how to deal with upsets and successes.
“My dream,” she concluded, “is to be able to compete in gymnastics at the college level.”
And in another year, that dream will come true.