Family and gymnastics.
For Mount Horeb gymnastics coach Martha Koller Faust and her Vikings program, those two words have been interchangeable ever since she can remember.
Gymnastics has been deeply ingrained throughout Koller Faust’s life. Her parents coached, building Mount Horeb’s program into a powerhouse that won four WIAA state team championships. In 1987, Koller Faust won state for Mount Horeb on the balance beam on her way to pursuing a career coaching the sport.
And now, Koller Faust continues the family legacy as Vikings’ head coach — with her husband, Pete, as assistant. They will lead the team into a WIAA Division 2 sectional meet Thursday night at home, just two years after Koller Faust coached the Vikings to their first team state championship since her mother’s 1993 team.
Koller Faust credits the current gymnasts with creating a tight-knit culture that has propelled Mount Horeb to another successful season.
“It’s such a strong, positive group of kids I work with,” Koller Faust said. “It’s always our goal to get the team to state.”
Last Saturday, the Vikings won their sixth consecutive Badger Conference championship, led by a sweep from junior Krista Taylor.
Taylor won all four events and the all-around championship — one year after she won three events and the all-around at conference — and the Vikings produced a team score of 139.35 points that is likely to have the team in the hunt for a Division 2 state championship.
“We consider ourselves a family, for sure,” Taylor said. “I feel like all the upperclassmen work with the freshmen and sophomores, and as a team we all help each other get ready for the bigger meets (including) sectionals and hopefully state.”
Thursday night, the Vikings will rely on upperclassmen such as Taylor, senior Leah Skalet, and junior Erin Dahm — each of whom has state meet experience — to lead by example and help the program clinch what would be a sixth consecutive team state berth.
It has been a long and consistent run of success for the Mount Horeb program and Koller Faust’s family. Her parents, head coach Susan Koller and assistant coach David Koller, took over the program in the mid-1970s and brought home team state championships in 1978, '83, '84 and '93.
In 1995, Koller Faust landed her first head coaching job at Madison West and enlisted her father as her assistant coach. After coaching for two years at West, Koller Faust decided to resign in order to be with her two young children.
“I was pregnant with my second child — my daughter, Lauren — and I told Madison West that I have a toddler and one on the way (so) I am going to take some time off from coaching,” Koller Faust said.
But the Mount Horeb head coaching job opened up that summer. The opportunity to continue the family legacy was too powerful to pass up. And that daughter, Lauren, grew up and joined the gymnastics legacy. As a Mount Horeb senior in 2015, Lauren collected the Division 2 individual all-around championship.
At that point, Koller Faust had just finished her 18th season. With Lauren departing for college and the gymnastics team at Hamline University in Minnesota, it seemed like a perfect time to go out on top.
“When (Lauren) graduated in 2015 and she started competing in college, we thought, well, we’ll take some time off and follow her. That’s what my parents did,” Koller Faust said. “Then I thought ‘I just can’t go away from this. We’ll make it work — we might have an early practice so we can hit the road to St. Paul or wherever we have to go.’
“I can’t see myself not doing this. It’s in my blood.”
That sounds like a family-based decision. And that’s Mount Horeb gymnastics. Even the Vikings’ slogan — #believe — traces to family roots, said Koller Faust, who was named the 2016 National Federation of State High School Associations Gymnastics Coach of the Year.
“My mom and dad started that motto way back in the 1980s,” Koller Faust said. “That’s basically what we’ve always said: Believe in yourself, believe in your team and great things will happen.”