Girls Gymnastics: Libertyville grad Rafiner comes full circle
Updated: July 8, 2012 6:37PM
Grayslake resident and former Libertyville High School gymnast Tiffany Rafiner has coached girls gymnastics at Vernon Hills, Mundelein and Lakes high schools. She served as an assistant coach under John Taylor at her alma mater the past three winters.
But for her upcoming wedding, Rafiner — Libertyville’s new girls gymnastics head coach — won’t be anywhere near Lake County. She’ll be a vault-runway’s distance from an ocean — the Pacific Ocean. Rafiner (LHS, Class of 1991) and Chris Owens will get married atop sand, in San Diego, on Saturday.
“Kind of crazy, I know,” said Rafiner of her coaching stops all over Lake County, not of her wedding’s setting.
Rafiner, a science teacher at the school, hopes to settle down for years as the Wildcats’ varsity coach.
“My long-term goal is to coach gymnastics for as long as I can,” said Rafiner, who helped the Wildcats place fifth at State her senior year under coach Curt Austin. “John (Taylor) did a phenomenal job with the program, and I’m looking forward to doing what I can to help our girls advance to the state meet. I love the sport and the impact it can have on lives. Gymnastics has been a part of my life since I was 6.”
Rafiner started coaching at the age of 16. She performed in the sport through her sophomore year at the University of Missouri before a shoulder injury halted her competitive career. Rafiner continued to coach tots as a college student.
Many gymnastics teams at the prep level feature a mix of elite club gymnasts, former elite club gymnasts and athletes who prefer to compete in the sport for only three months a year.
“When you coach varsity gymnastics, you’re coaching girls with various levels of ability,” Rafiner said. “The goal of a club gymnast who also competes during the high school season is to succeed in college. The goal of many other gymnasts is to finally hit a move on a certain routine. My goal is to watch girls from my team compete at State, no matter what level they are as gymnasts. The state meet — I live for that meet. I love watching athletes display their amazing skills in front of all those people.”
During the state meet, in 1991, Rafiner danced and tumbled to music from the movie, “Beetlejuice” during her floor-exercise routine.
She returned home, to Lake County, with a fifth-place medal.