SAN ANGELO, TX— The Central Lady Cat gymnastics team has made a name for themselves over the years joining an elite group of honorees, and the hours they spend in this gym is what makes all the difference.

“We get to just do our three hours after school every day. It seems like a lot and I get that it is, but honestly, we are so used to it because we have been training like that our whole lives. So it takes up a lot of time but you know we are just so used to it that it doesn’t really feel like it, especially because we love coming so it’s not a big deal to spend three hours here a day,” said junior Mariel Harzke.

This program currently holds the state championships team scoring record for girls, and the athletes have gathered seven individual state record-holders and 32 individual state champions. Including winning their 12th title in April of 2022.

“We were so nervous for floor like we knew it was our best event but we all knew it depended on that event. So it was really cool honestly because we were like okay this is our last event we just need to do it like we always do it and we have it. So everyone did well on floor, and so we knew once we all got our scores back. It was awesome because we were so scared this year,” said Harzke.

Along with the sport of gymnastics, mental toughness is taught at a young age which allows these athletes to learn life lessons each day.

“Probably every girl on this team has such a strong mental constitution because the stuff we do you are risking so much in so many of the things we do so you have to be so strong mentally. I think it’s awesome because that’s a good thing to have once you’re older. It’s good to be able to get over your fears and you’re taught that from like 3 years old on is that you need to get over your fears because you’re not going anywhere if you don’t,” said Harzke.

This team’s success wouldn’t be possible without one man paving the way.

“I want to be the best at what I do. So those that I work with I want them to be the best and reach their potential. So that’s just always my goal to be the best at what I do and fortunately for me it has paid off in San Angelo,” said head coach Tony Walker.

Head coach Tony Walker was selected back in October for the Gymnastics Association of Texas Life Member award to highlight his 36 years of service.

“Coach White, who started the program here, was a life member. So it was just people that I highly respected and never ever in a million years did I think I would be considered for something like that. So it was a bit of a surprise when they contacted me and told me that I was a selection,” said Walker.

Walker has been named Region III Coach of the Year eight times, State Coach of the Year nine times, and Girls National Team Coach of the Year twice.

“He gets so many awards and he deserves them all. I think we got to be there last year when he got some sort of award too and he deserves every one of them. He’s really the best. He’s the best coach I’ve had,” said Harzke.

The hours spent together allow these girls to grow closer to one another and build success as a family.

“They’ve become like daughters to me in a sense. I have my own daughter and I’m very thankful and blessed for that, but these girls become daughters to me over the years. I want what’s best for them whether it’s gymnastics or whether it’s life,” said Walker.