Athlete in focus: Caroline Raducha

Moments before the Oak Park and River Forest High School Girls’ Gymnastics team took the stage against Morton High School on Wednesday, Jan. 18, they huddled up, banged on the mats and screamed, 

“How do you feel?”

“Fired up!”

“How do you feel?” 

“Fired up!” 

In the center, leading the chant, was senior captain Caroline Raducha, whose positive energy and school pride set a prime example in all three of the varsity sports she plays at OPRF. 

Since she was a freshman, Raducha has been a key contributor and member of three varsity sports teams: diving, gymnastics and badminton. She has qualified for sectionals in both gymnastics and diving, while also making it to the IHSA State Finals in badminton last year. 

“It’s pretty remarkable that she can go and do other sports, and come back and be at the same level, if not a little bit further along, and then still pick up new skills,” said OPRF Gymnastics Coach Wendy Kuenster. 

In her senior gymnastics season, Raducha has already shown signs of continued success, where she consistently contributes high scores for the team.

 Raducha’s best event is the vault. “I do a Tsuk vault, where you’re running on the vault runway, punch the spring board with your feet, and do a one and a half flip off the table,” she explained. Last year, Raducha qualified as an individual in sectionals on the vault.

“We can always count on her to get a solid score,” said Head Coach Kris Wright. “Next year, finding someone else to feed into one of those spots to take the score she’s bringing us, that’s going to be a challenge,” she continued. 

Raducha isn’t just going to be missed for her talent, but also as a role model to the younger girls. “Everyone aspires to be as kind as and as funny as her. She’s such a team player even though gymnastics is such an individual sport,” said freshman Maisie Hoerster, who is the only freshman on varsity and Raducha’s “sister” on the team.

 “Every year, as we bring kids in, the older girls are still setting the example, and that’s what she does,” Wright added. 

Since gymnastics is such a mentally and physically tough sport, Raducha has relied on the supportive environment of high school gymnastics to help her succeed. “Gymnastics is so rewarding and empowering. It’s such a supportive sport where you need a supportive team. It has made us become a tight knit group,” Raducha said. 

Although competing in three varsity sports is difficult, Raducha wouldn’t want it any other way. “This is normal to me. I’ve been doing multiple sports my whole life,” she said. Throughout high school, she’s learned how to effectively manage her school work so she can excel in the sports she loves, she said. 

“Each of the sports contribute to a different body part getting stronger,” said Wright, who pointed out some of the additional advantages of playing multiple sports: “As head coaches, we’re all saying the same thing. She’s meeting friends that have the same work ethic. They’re there for the same reason.” 

After gymnastics, Raducha will conclude her high school career with badminton in the spring. She hopes to qualify for the IHSA State Finals again, with her doubles partner Kitty DeHaan. 

“It’s super rewarding to do well,” Raducha said. “I want to be good for my teammates and the school, all of the small sports make me feel recognized.”