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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.

Meghan Morger

Girls’ Team Assistant Coach, Social Media Coordinator

Meghan has 10 years of gymnastics experience as well as 8 years of cheerleading experience, including being co-captain of her high school cheerleading squad. Her passion for gymnastics has led her to coach in the Peoria area for the past 2 years. During her short tenure, Meghan has coached 3 Individual Illinois State Champions. Meghan graduated from Dunlap High School in 2013 and is currently studying chemical engineering at Illinois Central College.

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

Jonathan Smith

Girls’ Junior Olympic Team Assistant 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 Assistant 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.

Emily Costenaro

Gym Manager

Miss Emily entered the world of gymnastics when she was 3 years old. She quickly fell in love with the sport and competed in gymnastics for 15 years. She graduated from Lewis University in 2013 with her Bachelor of Arts degree in both Sports Management and Athletic Coaching. Emily is a professional member of USA Gymnastics, the national governing body of gymnastics in the United States, and she is also Safety Certified. Emily has been coaching gymnastics for over 11 years and during this time, she coached preschool all the way through competitive team gymnastics. After being a program director at IGI in Westmont, IL for 5 years, she became employed at the Park District of Oak Park where she was a coordinator and most recently was the Gym Director of The Little Gym in Barrington. She now joins the Peoria Elite Team and is excited to bring some fun dynamic ideas to our Preschool program!

Tad Stroemer

Tumbling, Boys and Girls Recreational Gymnastics, Ninja Training Academy Master

Tad started tumbling at Canton YMCA at the age of 4 and became a tumbling coach there in 2006. During his 8 years of coaching, Tad has taught Elite Trampoline, Elite Double-Mini Trampoline and Advanced Floor. Prior to joining PEGA, Tad has also coached tumbling at Kim’s Academy of Dance in Peoria.

Tad studied graphic design and graduated from Spoon River College. In addition to being a lifelong tumbler, he is also an avid breakdancer.

Tad is USTA Purple/Sliver/Gold Certified Training Coach and USTA Safety Certified.

Natalie Martz

Preschool Instructor

At a young age, Natalie found her love of sports and competed in as many as she could. During her high school years Natalie was a member of the Eureka High School Football and Basketball cheerleading squads, as well as their competition team. Whilst still participating in volleyball, basketball, and track. After high school, Natalie attended Indiana Wesleyan University obtaining a Bachelors in Sports Medicine, specifically Athletic Training, while also minoring in coaching. During her college summers, she was a part of the University of Notre Dame Sports Medicine Team, assisting with their summer sports camps. Eventually assisting with NAIA Women’s Basketball and Track and Field Nationals in 2011. Shortly after graduating college Natalie lived in South Carolina, working for the University of South Carolina Fraternity and Sorority Life, before moving back to Illinois.

Natalie joined the Peoria Elite Gymnastics Academy staff in the fall of 2014 as the front desk receptionist. Soon she found her way into becoming a preschool instructor and ultimately the Preschool Recreation Program Director, as well as Operations Manager. Natalie aspires to one day become a High School Athletic Director and cheer coach, while running/owning her own gym.

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!!

Melanie Henley

Recreational and Preschool Instructor

Melanie has done dance and tumbling since a young age and started competitive gymnastics in 2008 at age 7 at River City, but moved to PEGA when it opened in 2014.  She decided to retire from gymnastics her sophomore year of high school, and will be doing cheerleading at Dunlap High School for her senior year.  She joined the PEGA staff shortly after her decision to retire from gymnastics to stay involved in the sport she’s loved since a young age.  She now works special events and teaches preschool and school age recreational gymnastics classes.

Paige Koll

Recreational and Preschool Instructor

Cole Nicholson

Recreational and Ninja Instructor

Cole has been flipping and tumbling as long as he can remember! He lives in Washington, IL and works for a non-profit organization in Peoria during the day, but spends much time at PEGA throughout the week. He loves teaching Flip City and Ninja classes and helping kids grow and develop their skill sets. You can also find him behind the front desk if you visit on a Saturday. Cole loves being a part of the Peoria Elite family!


Sara O'Toole

Recreational Instructor

Makayla Gagnon

Recreational and Preschool Instructor

Makayla is a graduate of Bradley University with a Bachelor degree in accounting and a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation. During her time at Bradley, she was a part of the Vitality Dance Team.

Graduated from Tremont High School, Makayla was a member of the dance and cheerleading teams and shealso played flute and piccolo in the school band.  She has over ten years experience in tumbling with a strong passion for dance and cheerleading. She would like to be a cheerleading coach in the near future.

Makayla dreams of one day moving to Florida with her husband and getting to spend many of her days on the beach or at the Disney World.

Kali Schroeder

Recreational and Preschool Instructor
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