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Fierce Four: Staples Gymnasts Train Over the Summer

Liana Sonenclar
Balancing Act: Deanna Baris ’14 practices on the balance beam at Arena Gymnastics.

Over the summer, teenagers find thousands of ways to fill their time, from wrangling 8-year-olds at day camps to lounging under the scorching sun at Compo beach.

But imagine spending the long awaited school holidays with 20 or more hours a week on the balance beam, uneven bars, the vault and the spring floor. This summer, four Staples High School girls committed their days to gymnastic training.

Twin sisters Kristen and Pamela Onorato, ’15, along with fellow Staples students Eliza Donovan ’16 and Hannah Rose ’16, all train and compete at Arena Gymnastics in Stamford, Connecticut, both during the school year and over the summer.

According to their website, Arena Gymnastics offers practices for students anywhere from preschool age onwards. The gym’s primary goal is providing an environment in which students develop individual skills, with emphasis on fun, sportsmanship and safety.

The Staples representatives at Arena can certainly attest to these qualities.

“[Everyone at Arena Gymnastics] is focused, works hard every day and wants to do their absolute best,” Rose said. “Having that energy around the gym is really motivational and encouraging.”

Kristen has a similar attitude. “The training I have received [at Arena] has helped me excel as a gymnast and a person.”

The Onorato twins practiced five hours every day for seven weeks this summer, with only two week-long breaks at the beginning and end of summer.

Rose and Donovan also trained five hours a day, but only four days a week.

The girls’ staggering workloads would leave many exhausted at the mere thought of them.

But when thinking about what motivation and drive she needs to keep up this rigorous schedule, Kristen has no trouble coming up with an answer.

“It’s simple,” she concludes. “The love of the sport.”

Pamela agrees. “It’s something I love to do, so I enjoy spending time there.”

Pamela also benefits from the nature of constant evolution that gymnastics presents.

“I like setting goals and achieving them,” Pamela says. “With gymnastics, you can improve every day, and there is almost always something you can do better.”

Even with these strong beliefs, the girls still face many challenges with this commitment.

“Summer practices are tough,” admits Rose. “Practices are longer and the gym is hotter, but they are also the most fun because it’s when we can start working on new skills for the next competition season.”

Kristen agrees that the level of intensity over the summer is well worth it.

“I love learning new skills and working harder to become the best I can be.”

The Onoratos have been practicing and competing in gymnastics at Arena since they were in second grade when they started at the gym’s first compulsory level (four). The twins have since progressed to level nine, the second highest level a.

Hannah and Eliza are close behind their older teammates, both currently training for level eight.

With all their progress and achievements, the girls show no signs of stopping anytime soon.

“We would both love to do gymnastics in college,” Kristen said of herself and her sister. “We’ll train longer and work harder academically to make this a possibility.”

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About the Contributors
Ale Benjamin, Managing Editor
Ale Benjamin ’15 started out like everyone else in the Introduction to Journalism class her sophomore year. However, the class wasn’t just a way to earn course credit; it turned into a passion that she practices like a passionate, seasoned athlete would practice her sport. “Anyone can write, but journalism is more than that. It’s about communicating,” said Benjamin.  Along with communicating people’s stories, Benjamin has developed a broader perspective on the world by taking journalism. In order to better her skills, Benjamin went to an investigative reporting program at Boston University this summer. Benjamin participates in many activities that all tie together, allowing her to become accomplished in everything she does. Along with being one of the managing editors for Inklings, she is also one of the program directors for WWPT, as it combines her interests of journalism and music. Despite her many academic pursuits, Benjamin isn’t all work and no play. She enjoys relaxing, physically active hobbies such as Yoga and Pure Barre. She has also been an active member of the Staples girls’ swim team all four years of high school.. Benjamin loves to travel, which adds a global perspective to her writing. She has visited many incredible places including Thailand, South Africa, and Australia. However, she doesn’t travel just for pure pleasure. Benjamin takes her helping hands on the Builders Beyond Borders service trip every February since her sophomore year. She has visited communities in the Dominican Republic, Guyana, and plans to go again to Guatemala this coming year. Her participation in Inklings and her many other diverse activities allows Benjamin to tackle each challenge she faces with the determination of a reporter ready to crack a case.
Liana Sonenclar, Photo Editor
For Liana Sonenclar ’14, a photograph isn’t just a distant picture taken carelessly with the fumbling push of a button. It’s not busywork; it’s not an afterthought. A photograph, to Sonenclar, is an experience, a careful experience, that captures not only an image, but also an emotion. “This year, I’m encouraging photographers to get close to their subjects,” Sonenclar said. “Be a part of the event.” Sonenclar, after taking photos for nearly every print edition of Inklings last year, is starting this year as the Photo Editor for the staff, a position that comes with its fair share of responsibility. In addition to taking as many photos as she did last year, Sonenclar is now in charge of making sure all the other photographers know what to capture. To make this easier, Sonenclar is starting a photographic recruitment process of sorts, hand-selecting artists and photographers that she knows are reliable and asking them to join her crew. “New people provide new talent, new variety,” Sonenclar said. “I want to change things up, to make every issue interesting.” And Sonenclar certainly has some experience in getting interesting photographs. While taking photos last year for Inklings, she also served as a Staff Photographer for the Westport Daily Voice as well as now starting this year as the official photographer for the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk. However, photography is just one of Sonenclar’s undertakings. She also plays piano for Wreckers In Tune, is actively working on a science research project, is one of the Executive Editors and Producers of QED and a member of the French Honor Society, all while balancing nine Advanced Placement courses over her high school tenure.

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