Don’t let their looks fool you. They might appear to be fresh-faced newcomers, but in reality, the two girls leading the youth movement for the Highland Park girls gymnastics program are wily veterans.
Tatum Meeks and Lily Overton are each freshmen with several years of club gymnastics experience, who have older sisters on the team and the determination to provide a successful foundation for the Lady Scots for the next three years.
“They’re both club gymnasts, so I expected them to be at a higher level coming in than most freshmen,” said HP head coach Brandi Wren. “We’ve been trying to remind them that it’s not what they do as an individual, it’s what they do for the team.”
Indeed, the team concept has represented one of the biggest adjustments for Meeks and Overton, but each has embraced it. After all, it means they can share their victories with their siblings. Holland Meeks is a junior, while Elli Overton is a sophomore. Both are team captains for HP.
“It’s really fun to compete with her,” Tatum Meeks said. “It’s fun to have one-on-one competitions. I think we’ve become closer.”
Both freshmen come from gymnastics families, and have been friends since fifth grade. Meeks began in the sport when she was 6, after getting a start in ballet. “I started to really like it. Then I started to go every day,” she said. “I’ve always loved to dance. I like performing and showing off.”
Meeks trains about three hours every day at her club gym after leaving practice at school. Overton has opted to focus on high school competitions rather than club meets this year. “It’s not as intense as club. You’re representing a team. Everybody is so supportive of everybody,” Overton said. “I’ve discovered more of what I can do this year. I’d really like to be able to win state.”
Both newcomers have traded spots on the podium in several meets this season, especially on balance beam, which is their top event. Wren thinks Meeks and Overton will each become all-around qualifiers for the state meet in April.
“They’re disciplined. It’s always great to see new life come into the program,” Wren said. “It’s definitely going to benefit us for the next three years.”