Several months after choosing to dance on Niles West’s poms squad instead of diving, junior Valerie Fung has seen and felt the benefits of that decision in three different ways.
Physically, it’s lessened the strain on Fung’s knees and ankles.
“Diving was really hard on her ankles and her knees last year,” Niles West coach Susan Arcus said. “We had a lot of issues with that. We’ve definitely not had to deal with that this year, which is really great because it’s just one less thing to worry about. And the dance always help.”
Dancing on the team’s poms squad helped the junior to improve her rhythm on beam and floor exercise. It also provided her more time to focus on her primary sport.
Fung started training a month earlier this season than her freshman and sophomore seasons because diving so drastically cuts into the gymnastics season. The extra time, along with an offseason spent training, resulted in Fung upgrading many of her skills and tricks. The biggest upgrade has been on vault, on which she’s now doing a tuck tsuk.
Fung also has seen improvement on her floor exercise over the course of this season, scoring an 8.6 at the Niles North Invite on Saturday.
The combination of those three benefits was important to Fung entering the season, partly because of the way her sophomore season ended. Fung’s 8.675 on floor exercise at the New Trier Regional left her .05 points away from qualifying for sectionals.
Missing the sectionals cut by such a small margin “motivated me because I know that I deserved to be there and I didn’t have my best meet,” Fung said. “I know that (I needed to) put 110 percent in it because that’s what I really want. … (Switching to poms) was the right choice to make.”