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Local gymnastics teams run, tumble and fly

By Ryan Kaczmarski

The high school gymnastics season is already upon us, and the area teams are hopeful for postseason success.

Last season, MAGNIFICAT did not qualify for the state meet – for the first time in 23 years – and head coach Joe Gura wants to make sure his squad makes it back to Columbus in 2013.

“We ended up seventh at districts, so this is a rebuilding year, and our goal is to qualify to the state championships,” he said. “We’re hoping that we have a strong month of practice on our way.”

The Blue Streaks did not lose any girls due to graduation, but they did add many new faces to the roster.

“It was a very young team last year and a younger team this year, because we’re counting on a few more freshmen than we did (before),” Gura said. “We’re counting on the experience of Hayley Austria to support our young team and Julia Corrao to be our best girl, and she’s only a sophomore.

“As far as new girls, one is Hanna Carpenter, who we’re looking for great results from,” he added. “She’s a freshman, and it looks like she will be very sturdy for our program. The second one is Jessica Androsik. She’s very strong and fast, and we’re hoping that she really helps the team this year as well.”

Carpenter, Androsik and Jessica Cherrico will be the leaders on the uneven bars.

“Our team had a really disappointing bar performance last year, that was what knocked us out of districts, so we’re really emphasizing our bar training and I think it’s looking really good right now,” Gura said. “Julia (Corrao) maybe has the second most difficult floor routine in the state of Ohio. As far as vault, we have a bunch of flipping vaults, and the last one is balance beam that is where our leadership and consistency has to work.”

The Blue Streaks roster is rounded out by seniors Morgan Coury, Jen Heisser, Alysha Thompson and Lauren Wherling; junior Maryclare Kastelic; sophomores Kelly Adler, Brenna Brossard, Ariana Cucci and Emma Trefney; and freshmen Abigail Brenner, Clair Bain, McKenzie Erker, Alyssa Hrobat, Bella Laham, Kayla McNamara, Meghan Riley and Molly VanCuren.

Gura thinks the sectional and district meets are always the most important of the year, along with the (Brecksville) Rock and Roll Classic.

“Our team’s strength is being young and being aggressive and having goals and attaining them. Looking forward to a good year, it’s my 24th,” Gura concluded.

Last season, ROCKY RIVER did not have enough girls on the team to fill all four events.

“That’s what we’re striving for this year, although we’ve come in contact with some injuries already this season,” Pirates head coach Meg Leneghan said. “Uneven bars have always been our struggle, because it’s a very strength-demanding event.

“We have no cuts,” she added. “Some of the girls that come out for the team are mostly cheerleaders or dancers, so they can easily pick up floor and beam and do a routine, and bars is usually a struggle. Teamwise, we didn’t see a full team throughout the season, but we have many individuals that can compete in various events.”

The three returning girls on the team are Grace Combs, Tess MacNamara and Shiloh Snavely. Two promising newcomers are Dasha Cohan and Natalie Tisdale.

“Those two freshmen have been extremely consistent at practice and are very promising; we expect big things from them,” Leneghan said. “Both have a lot of gymnastics experience before they came to high school. Dasha had an injury early in the season, but we’re hoping she returns in a week or so.”

The Pirates also did not graduate anyone from last year’s roster, so the young team will be building off last season’s experience.

“All of our girls are key girls because we have such a small team,” Leneghan said. “They all have new routines, so they’re starting off and it’s very early, and we’re hoping they gain a lot of experience before we get to sectionals.

“Right now, they’re eager to learn new skills,” she added. “They have great dance and strength backgrounds, so it’s been easy to teach them new routines and they work very hard. If they had more time for practice and more upper body strength, then we could teach them bar routines, and hopefully that’ll come later in the season.”

Third-year head coach Chelsea Cahill is turning the WESTLAKE program into a team to look out for this season.

The only girl lost to graduation was Hayley Hartman, who is now at The Ohio State University.

“She was a two-time captain, four-year letter winner and a phenomenal leader on this team,” Cahill said. “She was very positive and an excellent role model in all aspects of life.”

The Demons return 13 letter winners this year, including seniors Katie Jenkins (captain) and Emma Coleman; juniors Aggie Anastasopoulos, Bethany Sokol, Brianna Sokol and Faith Mancuso; and sophomores Elizabeth Mancuso, Christina Solomon, Kaitlyn Cook, Mara Lipschutz, Rita Forbush, Sadie Massa and Talyssa Vallecillo.

Newcomers to the team are freshmen Rachel Rahe, Ariana Millsaps and Emma Hall, and sophomore Mikayla Stratton.

Cahill sees the team strengths as being the great bond the girls have between them, and some of the team members who have club experience helping the other girls learn. The weakness is the team’s consistency with its routines, come competition time.

“Our goal is to finish better than last year at sectionals (ninth place), and qualify a few individuals to districts,” Cahill said. “We would also like to beat our previous team record score (124.95).”

The OLMSTED FALLS squad has doubled in numbers from last season.

The returning letter winners are senior Kendall Wertman, junior Dezi Szabo and sophomore Sarah Lyzen.

“Kendall Wertman is our only senior, and team captain,” Bulldogs head coach Sarah Obugene said. “She brings motivation to the team and really pushes them to work harder to do their best. Since I’m not at the school, she does a great job of making sure all the girls stay informed of what’s going on. She has an outstanding work ethic in the gym – she comes to work – and it should definitely pay off this season.”

This year’s key newcomers are junior Caitlyn Boyle, sophomore Breanna Palkovic and freshman Chelsea Impala.

Rounding out the Bulldogs’ roster are Karli Dugan, Cam Lapps, Olivia Sarik, Farrah Thomay, Cassie Weber and Allissa Willis.

“I would love to see some of the girls make it past sectionals this year, as well as improve our record,” Obugene concluded.



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