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Michele Markel: A one-girl gymnastics team at Oliver Wolcott Tech.

POSTED May 16, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON-If an athlete, in any sport, goes into a slump, he or she normally has the comfort of knowing that they have the support of their team. Be it somebody who picks up the slack for said athlete or a shoulder to lean on for advice, having someone there is a great relief.

But what if you are a one-person team?

Who do you get to lean on or look to for a spark?

Welcome to the world of the one-person team. It’s not a world unfamiliar to several of our local standout athletes.

Dean Tsopanides from Torrington High School, was a on-man wrestling team the past few years and cleaned up on the mat after also being part of a team with the Raiders football team, where he excelled for four years.

Across the street at Wolcott Tech, which incidentally where Tsopanides trained with the Wildcats wrestling team, senior Michele Markel has been making her mark as a one-person Gymnastics Team.

“To do what Michele does on her own take a kid who can self motivate,” Tech Athletic Director Ray Tanguay said, “It speaks volumes about her character. She is a top notch kid who is a member of our National Honor Society.”

The senior gymnast was recently named to the National High School Gymnastics Association Academic All-American Team for the 2011 year.

Yeah, she can hold down a 4.0 grade point average (4th best in her class) while spending six days a week training three to four hours a day at Northwest Gymnastics in Winsted.

The Wildcat senior has also been a member of the highly respected and admired “Forbes Flyers” since she was in the third grade.

At a very early age, Markel made the decision to join the ranks of tumblers and athletes who specialize in the four elements of gymnastics; the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor.

Her favorite; the balance beam. The one she is best at; the floor exercises, a crowd favorite and the one, as Markel describes it, “The wow factor.”

An average beam performance take about a minute but from start to finish, it’s a balance (literally) between making sure you do the required skill sets and the style in which you get there.

“I am most relieved when it’s over,” Markel said, “I like the challenge of the beam, the mental toughness it takes to do it.”

During the winter months when the competition level at both the high school and USA Gymnastics (she has been performing with them since she began back in fifth grade) heats up, it’s all about competing as a one person team.

On the high school level, Markel travels with Farmington High School with her coach, Jen Chowaniec, the owner of Northwest Gymnastics.

“The team has always welcomed me as one of their own,” Markel said about how she has been received in a different school, “It is an awesome team to be a part of.”

The Indians compete against schools from Wethersfield, Windsor, Southington amongst others during the winter season.

Farmington placed sixth in the Class M States in February of 2011 and Markel posted strong results for her one-girl team from Torrington.

After qualifying 15th in the floor exercise with an average of 9.12, Markel took on some of the best athletes in the state in the Open and came away tied for 20th with a score of 8.55.

Along with excelling in the gym, Markel is making it happen in the classroom as well. After graduating from Tech this June, she plans on attending Springfield College this fall with hopes of continuing her gymnastics career while working towards her professional career.

“I am going to be studying Sports Biology and Pre-Med,” Markel said, “I hope to be either an emergency room physician or a physicians assistant.”

One thing is for certain, whatever this self motivated individual puts her mind to, figure on it happening.




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