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.”