Even when she was a little girl, it was pretty clear that gymnastics suited Buffalo Grove’s Diandra Duenser.
“I would spin around on the monkey bars, and my parents saw that I had some strength,” she said. “They got me started out in gymnastics at the park district.”
Duenser, always a daredevil, was enamored with the challenges and opportunities presented by gymnastics.
“I love being in the air and the thrill of trying new things,” she said.
Now a sophomore at Buffalo Grove, Duenser is the top all-around gymnast for the Bison. While Buffalo Grove is rebuilding this season, the outlook is bright: Four of the team’s top gymnasts are underclassmen (Duenser, sophomore Sarah Cotton and freshmen Bridget Donnowitz and Isabelle Samson).
Duenser was the team’s leader in the all-around last year as well, but this season her scores have benefited from improvement on floor and beam. Her top score in each event is 9.1 and 8.8, respectively.
“She’s got a new routine which fits her a little better and we’ve upgraded some of her dance and jump skills,” Bison coach Stephanie Schrader said.
While Duenser always loved floor, the same could not be said of beam.
“Last year, I hated beam,” she said. “I would dread it and I didn’t score very well.”
Now, beam may be her favorite event. Duenser said that she started to come around as she started successfully executing more difficult skills.
“I’ve added a lot of new skills and if I can stick the routine, the outcome will be tremendous,” she said.
The Bison are a close-knit team, and Duenser said each girl benefits from that.
“The entire team is so supportive and that’s one of the best parts of high school gymnastics,” she said. “We cheer each other on in practice as much as we do in meets.”
Duenser helps set the tone in practice by competing at a high level in every practice and meet.
“Each day she finds something new to put in her routine,” senior Erika Ray said.
Ray said Duenser’s toughness is not lost on her teammates.
“Gymnastics is completely mental,” Ray said. “You can have the skills but going out and competing is completely different. She does her skills in meets the way she does in practice.”
In the final competition of 2013, the girls scored a 130.45 at the Addison Trail Invite. The girls were ahead of schedule, as scoring at least 130 was the team’s original goal for the entire season.
Look for that score to continue to rise over the coming years. In addition to the gymnasts returning, the Bison are expected to welcome multiple new girls with significant club experience.
“This year’s team is very energetic with girls excited to be on the varsity,” Schrader said. “We’ll have some more [young] kids next year, and that has us pretty excited about the future.”