By Ryan Kaczmarski
A family that competes together, succeeds together.
That can certainly be said about Westlake’s Cahill family. With four of the five members of the family competing at a high level in each of his or her chosen sport, and the fifth making sure everyone gets to games and practices on time, they could be seen as an American success story.
The range of athletic competition within the family includes 10-year-old Chloe, who recently was the all-around beam and floor L4 state champion at the AAU Gymnastics Winter Nationals; 19-year-old Alexander (Alex), a former football and wrestling star at Westlake High School who just completed his first season of collegiate wrestling at Baldwin-Wallace College and is throwing the javelin for the track team; 23-year-old Chelsea, a former standout gymnast and runner for Magnificat and current gymnastics coach at Great Lakes Gymnastics and Westlake High School; and the family patriarch, Larry – or Dad, as the others call him – who played football and threw the shot put for St. Edward High (one year) and North Olmsted High (three years), and who still competes in track and field, recently taking second at the USA Track and Field Masters Indoor National Championships in the shot put event, earning USATF Masters All-American status. All the while, Kirsten – or Mom – takes care of logistics and cheerleading.
“I am so proud of my three children and my husband,” Kirsten said. “They all work very hard to be the best that they can be, and are always pushing themselves to do better.”
Chelsea just finished her second year as varsity head gymnastics coach for Westlake High School, leading the Demons to their highest finish ever at the Medina sectionals (ninth out of 25). In her two seasons, the program has grown from four athletes to 24.
“(Athletics) is what we all just fell into,” Chelsea said. “It wasn’t like ‘You will all be athletes.’ It just happened to be what we liked, and I think being an athlete poured over into every other (aspect of life), with learning time management and having a drive to do well in school.
“I guess we just followed the example that my parents set,” she added. “My dad wouldn’t tell us to go do something (competitively), he’d do it himself. That was a big part of it.”
“Chelsea knew from early on that gymnastics was her passion,” Kirsten said. “She was in the gym five days a week and kept asking if she could go more often.”
In her years at Magnificat, she was an eight-time letter winner (gymnastics and track and field). In gymnastics, she was a four-time state qualifier and part of the Blue Streaks’ 2003 state championship. She also took fourth at the 2006 USAG Eastern Nationals. After graduating from Magnificat, she went on to get her bachelor’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University.
“She has brought her love of (gymnastics) and her drive for success to her coaching,” Kirsten said.
“What Chelsea has done with the WHS gymnastics team speaks for itself,” Alex said. “It’s impressive how the program has come to life under her leadership.”
The Demons gymnastics squad is still young, but Chelsea has high hopes for the future of the program.
“I’m just excited in general, because the Westlake name is out there (for gymnastics),” she said. “This past year – the second season as a varsity sport at WHS – there’s been so much more attention on, and success for, the team.”
Young Chloe currently competes for Great Lakes Gymnastics, and is coached by Magnificat head gymnastics coach Joe Gura and her big sister.
“I’m very, very happy that she has chosen to stick with (gymnastics),” Chelsea said. “I wanted her to love gymnastics as much as I do, but I didn’t want to push her into anything she didn’t want to do.”
“Chloe is at the stage where I just want to see her have fun,” Alex said. “She has already accomplished a lot, and I believe, without a doubt, that she will continue to succeed.”
Chloe also plays soccer, and in her free time, plays the guitar.
“I think her balance from gymnastics helps her on the soccer field,” Kirsten said. “When she gets pushed or tripped, she doesn’t fall because of her balance and strength.”
Alex just earned his first varsity letter at B-W, tallying 10 takedowns, 20 escapes and one reversal in his first year of collegiate wrestling.
“Wrestling this past year for B-W showed me that you can’t just go to practices, you really have to ‘live the life of a wrestler,’ as Coach Gibbs would put it,” Alex said of B-W’s head wrestling coach, Jamie Gibbs.
He has a hard time describing what it is like being in an athletic family, because he said that he doesn’t have anything else to compare it to.
“Athletics have simply always been a part of my life,” he said. “By the time I got to high school, it was pretty well cemented into me that I was an athlete, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve been drawn to competition for as long as I can remember,” Alex added. “Competitions are where you get to show off all the hard work put in leading up to them. The competitions are the fun part!”
Alex earned two varsity letters in football and track, and four varsity letters in wrestling, at WHS. He also earned All-Southwestern Conference honors as a linebacker his senior year of high school and served as team captain.
For Larry, the “competition bug” bit again five years ago, when he started competing in grappling tournaments, track meets, 5Ks and “Pump and Runs,” and went back to school to earn his master’s degree.
“Watching my dad train, compete and succeed motivates me even more to continue to get better,” Alex said. “It’s an awesome thing to be able to say your dad is still competing; there aren’t many people I know who can say that.”
“One can be a lifelong learner and athlete, as there are many opportunities out there if you look for them,” Larry said.
“(Larry) sets goals for himself, works toward the goal and accomplishes it,” Kirsten said. “I admire his discipline and drive. I think the fact that he lives a healthy lifestyle, trains hard and challenges himself by competing, rubs off on all of us.”
Larry has been a two-time USATF Masters All-American in shot put (2007, 2012) and has medalled multiple times for the North American Grappling Association. He also worked as an extra in the feature film “The Avengers.”
Even with all the athletic achievement, the Cahills have not dragged their feet academically.
“Kirsten and I have always stressed academics first, and then athletics,” Larry added. “We taught them each how to read before they were in kindergarten, and enrolled them at Great Lakes Gymnastics at an early age. We always stressed doing your best, competing with honor and integrity, good sportsmanship, being a leader and having fun.”
“Our children are all amazing athletes, as well as high achievers academically,” Kirsten said. “I think the discipline (for both) goes hand in hand.”
While Kirsten does not compete, she still finds time to stay healthy and in shape.
“I have to give a ton of credit to my mom,” Alex said. “She works out just like the rest of us, and she does it while being the greatest mom ever. I honestly don’t know how she does it.”