ELKHART — Freshmen tend to be timid.
It is a tendency Kathy Krauter has witnessed in her many years as Elkhart Central High School gymnastics coach.
"Freshmen are usually not that aggressive to pursue things," says Krauter. "They don't like to be out of their comfort zone.
Not so with Blue Blazer ninth-graders Alena Stabler, 14, and cousin Kiara Stabler, 15.
"They are not afraid," says Krauter. "With Kiara, I've never seen a freshman work that hard in my life. With Alena, she is crazy enough to do anything."
As Central prepares for the Wawasee Sectional on Saturday, March 8, Kiara Stabler has the team's season-best scores in the vault (9.10) and all-around (34.20) and is tied with junior Libby Yeakey for top score on the floor (9.10).
Alena Stabler has the best score on the bars (8.70), with Yeakey No. 1 on the beam (8.80).
Both Stablers are driven.
"I won't get off an event (in practice) until I do a skill a certain amount of times or it will drive me crazy," says Alena. "I just keep trying. That's the way I've always been."
The vault has been Kiara's best event this year, but she wanted to use a front handspring and front tuck vault instead of the full spin, but did not have time to refine it for the postseason. That's what she will work on in the off-season.
"I think (the vault) is super easy," says Kiara. "All you have to do it stay tight and you can hit it.
"I need to get things cleaned up on the bars, floor and beam — straighten my legs and straighten my arms."
Both Stabler girls were 8 when they began competing at the Elkhart YMCA and Alena spent four years with Gymnastics Michiana. They became closer once they became part of the Central program, which now trains and competes at The Club, 2125 Industrial Parkway, Elkhart.
"We bond at gymnastics," says Alena, the daughter of Matt and Jen Stabler. "That's where we're centered."
Kiara is the daughter of Lori Stabler and Jeremy Stabler.
Alena and Kiara have learned from their older teammates.
"(Juniors) Libby Tully and Libby Yeakey are looking over them," says Krauter. "They have really helped them develop."
At the 12-team Wawasee Sectional, Central will rotate with Angola and DeKalb and begin on beam.
"That's our strongest event," says Krauter. "We set the tone."
The top three teams advance to regional. In a new twist, qualifiers from Wawasee will go to the Huntington North Regional on Friday, March 14.
In addition, the top six placers in each sectional event advance to the regional, as do the top six placers in the all-around competition.
All gymnasts who receive the score of the sixth-place gymnast at the previous state finals meet also advance to the regional (bars, 9.4; beam, 9.225; vault, 9.7; floor, 9.425; all-around, 37.15).