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Coaches and Staff
Peoria Elite Crew

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Karen Thomas

Girls’ Team Head Coach

Karen began her coaching career 33 years ago in Peoria, Illinois at the YWCA and Frank Freeman’s School of Gymnastics. Karen is also a beam and floor choreographer.

After coaching four years in the area, she accepted a coaching job in Singapore for two years for their optional team that competed internationally. She returned to the States and found her way to Texas where she coached for two years before opening her own gym in Texas with her husband. Their gym had recreational and team gymnastics, along with a tumbling and cheerleading program. During this time, she completed her Elementary teaching degree and her Master’s degree in Secondary Education. She taught Middle School Language Arts and coached in the evenings and weekends. Their gym had many successful gymnasts for 17 years, and several even received college scholarships. When her husband developed some health problems in 2005, they sold their gym.

She moved back to Peoria in 2007 where she started coaching again and was the Director of the Tumbling Program at the YWCA. In 2009 she resumed coaching and developing the successful gymnastics teams at the Clubs at River City. Recognizing the talent in the Peoria area and the potential need for an Elite program, Karen decided to join the Peoria Elite Gymnastics Academy in 2014.

Karen is a USAG Professional member, USAG Safety Certified, and Red Cross CPR/First Aid Certified.

Jonathan Smith

Girls’ Junior Olympic Team Coach, Xcel Team Lead Coach

Jonathan started gymnastics at age 5 in the Chicago area and competed for the Oak Park Gymnastics for nine seasons from age 10 through high school. During his competitive career he attained Regional top ten finishes on floor, parallel bars, and all-around. He started his coaching career at age 15, coaching boys’ team and developmental team at Oak Park. After moving to Bloomington, IL for college, he started coaching girl’s gymnastics at Rising Star Gymnastics, becoming Xcel Team coach in the 2012-2013 season and Level 3 Team coach in the 2013-2014 season, producing state champions on bars and floor.

Jonathan joined the Peoria Elite Gymnastics Academy staff in June 2014 as full time Compulsory Coach and Recreational Program Director. He specializes in bars and vault coaching, but also enjoys coaching tumbling and is learning dance concepts for coaching beam and floor and has helped implement a strength and conditioning program for the team and pre-team. He has helped produce state bars and all-around champions for PEGA. Jonathan is developing his optional spotting techniques with the goal of reaching head coach caliber in the near future for a high level USAG program or eventually for NCAA gymnastics. Jonathan holds a degree in Music Education from Illinois Wesleyan University and has taught private voice lessons and appeared in operas for Illinois Wesleyan. He lives in the Peoria area with his wife, Kathleen. They are thinking of getting a cat.

Jonathan is a USAG Professional member and USAG Safety Certified

Laurel Stepping

Girls’ Team Coach

Laurel has been coaching competitive gymnastics for 18 years. She has worked with athletes of all levels from recreational classes to Level 10, as well as Xcel. She began her coaching career in Michigan and has also coached in the Chicago area as well as at another Peoria gymnastics facility.

Laurel holds a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from Michigan State University and a Master’s degree in Sports Management from Eastern Michigan University. Her love for gymnastics is what led her to pursue these degrees.

Throughout her 18 years of coaching, Laurel has discovered that all gymnasts learn in different ways and at different paces. She tries to cater her coaching to ensure she is meeting each individual athlete’s needs. While she expects hard work in the gym, if there is music turned on (compulsory floor music included) you will probably catch her doing silly dance moves when she thinks no one is watching!

On a personal note, Laurel and her husband, Chris, have a three year old son named Jacob. Jacob already has a love of gymnastics and has asked his mom to teach him how to do a “real flip” when he gets older.

Fred Hartville

Boys' Team Head Coach

Frederick “Fred” Hartville is from Atlanta, Georgia. He did JO competitive gymnastics up to Level 10 where he amassed several State Titles and was a Regional and National JO Qualifier representing Georgia and Region 8.

After high school he went on to compete for the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana under the direction of Olympian, Justin Spring. While at Illinois, Fred claimed a NCAA Title and 2 Big Ten Titles on the vault and is currently ranked 5th in the all time medal count on vault in Illinois history.

After leaving University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s in Business Process Management, Fred went on to full time coaching at I-Power School of Gymnastics in Champaign, Illinois. Using his experience from coaching at various camps, the University’s club program and personal training, Fred coached all levels from pre-team to Level 10 and achieved much success in producing State Champions and Regional Qualifiers for Level 9 and 10. Leaving I-Power after his first season, Fred went on to co-head coach at River City Gymnastics team along side Jenna where they produced several state champions in two seasons.

Fred brings high energy in the gym, and you will always catch him dancing around the gym or flipping around with the kids. Fred is very passionate about teaching technically sound gymnastics and helping every gymnast he encounters reach their full potential and goals in the sport.

Fred is a USAG Professional Member in Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics, USAG Safety Certified, and SAFESPORT Certified.

Jenna Parks

Girls' Team Coach

Jenna first discovered her love for gymnastics at the age of two. She competed gymnastics for 10 years at I-Power School of Gymnastics in Champaign, Illinois.  During that time, Jenna earned two Level 8 State Titles, was a four time Regional Qualifier, and competed as a Level 10 gymnast.

After graduating high school, Jenna went on to attend Illinois State University where she earned her Bachelor’s in Secondary Mathematics Education. While attending ISU, Jenna coached at I-Power for four years. She coached Levels 3-10 producing many state titles and regional qualifiers.

Jenna then began her co-head coaching career at River City Gymnastics with Fred.  During this time, Fred and Jenna produced 10 state titles in two years. Along with coaching at River City, Jenna teaches mathematics full time at Washington Community High School.

Jenna has a passion for coaching polished and high quality gymnastics. Her goal as a coach is to help gymnasts reach their own goals and potential in the sport. She truly enjoys sharing her passion and love for gymnastics with the girls she coaches. Jenna has a detailed orientated and hands-on coaching style in the gym.

On a personal note, Jenna was a member of the Gamma Phi Circus at ISU for three years. She performed in tumbling, wall trampoline, Russian Swing, and Teeterboard. Each year the Gamma Phi Circus puts on an annual show in Redbird Arena bringing in tens of thousands of people from all over Illinois to watch.

Jenna is a USAG Professional Member, USAG Safety Certified, SAFESPORT Certified, and CPR Certified.

Alicia Vonk

Special Event Coordinator, Recreational and Preschool Instructor

My name is Alicia Vonk, I am a cosmetologist, I have a husband and 3 children.  Family means everything to me.  I have a background of cheering and tumbling, and trampoline.  I love the outdoors, and most sports!! I love coaching and teaching children!!

Josiah Smith

Head Recreational Instructor and Team and Devlopmental Assistant

Mr. Josiah has been doing gymnastics for over 10 years. He has turned his passion into his job where he has now been coaching over 3 years. Always wanting to grow Josiah has been able to coach all levels at our gym and is now working on assisting our competitive team and Hopes program. He has had the opportunity to compete and train at many different gymnastics gyms and loves teaching and showing all the kids about his favorite sport…Gymnastics!

Jackson Wolfe

Front Office Staff

Paige Koll

Recreational Instructor

Olivia Devanna

Recreational and Preschool Instructor

Miss Olivia D is currently a Junior at DHS.  She did gymnastics for 12 years and school cheerleading for 4 years as well as competitive cheerleading for 1 year!  Her favorite color is Yellow, when she is not at the gym coaching or at school she loves hanging out with her 2 siblings. Her dream pet would be a Huskey or a golden retriever!


Olivia Carson

Recreational Instructor

Miss Oliva C is currently a Jr. at Dunlap Highschool. She did Gymnastics for 8 years and even was a Regional Champion in Bars and Beam! She is currently using her past gymnastics experience to pursue diving and loves sharing her passion for gymnastics with all of her students!

Alaina Giftos

Recreational and Preschool Instructor

Miss Alaina has done competitive power tumbling from age 10-14, winning a state and national championship title in 2012. After that she began cheerleading and has been cheering at Illini Bluffs schools for 7 years. At school she is a competitive cheerleader, and she is also in all star cheerleading. She has won many national titles and competed at the prestigious Summit Championship in 2017 at Disney World where her team placed third place in the nation. She joined PEGA in order to teach skills and develop the love of tumbling, cheerleading and gymnastics within kids is a huge dream of hers. Outside of cheerleading she is always with her friends and family. She also love pizza and root beer, and her favorite holiday is Christmas! She always encourage the kids to reach for the stars, and bring home the moon!

Molly Gogoel

Recreational and Preschool Instructor

Molly started gymnastics at the age of 3. She has done both gymnastics and cheerleading through high school where an injury forced her to quit. She continued to stay a part of the sports by becoming a coach and was able to coach for 2 gyms in the Chicago Land area. She grew up in a large family where she was one of 7! Which lead her to always surrounded by children which inspired her to get a degree in Special Education, She is currently studying at Eureka College. Children have always had such a place in her heart, she loved teaching children to push them selves and have confidence in who they are!

Nate Darko

Recreational and Preschool Instructor
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