If you’re not familiar with high school gymnastics, you’ll know a little more after reading this piece. Miami Valley Sports Magazine writer Alex Sator sat down with both the teams and coaches from Centerville and Northmont high schools to get a better understanding of the sport – and pit falls. Didn’t know gymnastics had ringers? Guess again.
It’s been a very exciting year for fans of high school gymnastics in the Miami Valley as both Northmont and Centerville have outstanding chances to advance to the OHSAA gymnastics state tournament.
Many of the top notch gymnastics programs in the state employ late-season ringers in order to advance to Columbus. They’ve been doing it for years, the examples are legion, and there is no denying that it is being done right here in the Gem City.
It isn’t illegal, but that isn’t the point. Both of these programs conduct their business the old fashioned way by remaining true to the kids that got them there in the first place – and it’s a refreshing trend indeed.
MVP caught up with some of the key figures in the local scene with the idea of learning more about gymnastics in general, and of their schools in particular, by picking their able and willing brains.
Steve Heinrichs is the dedicated head coach of the Northmont T-Bolts gymnastics team as well as its divers. Kate Heinrichs is his daughter, a very talented all-around gymnast, and a leading contender for the D-I pole vault championship in the spring.
Nicki Bosscher coaches a traditionally powerful Centerville Elks squad, featuring her talented protégé, Colleen Mescher.
MVP: Tell us about your seasons so far.
NB: This is the first time in years that two Dayton teams are battling it out like this. We’re deeper than we have been in the last four years. We have a strong core of seniors. Colleen Mescher and Becky Norviel are finishing first and second in nearly every meet we go to. Lyndsey Welsh and Maggie Otto are pretty solid all-arounders, too.
Our secret weapon has been our sophomore – Shelby Flamm. She’s kind of pulling out new tricks for every meet. What’s great about her, and all of the other girls too, is that she is just a real nice kid. They aren’t club kids that we just put on the team at the last minute. We work with our girls year around.
SH: We’ve been very strong, especially the last half of the regular season. We started off at Miamisburg and placed third. We placed second in the next two meets, but in the last three meets my girls have won.
The five seniors we have this year – Bethany Anderson, Jeannie Borda, my daughter Kate (Heinrichs), Allie Pulous, and Kasi Turpin – have made for a strong core.
MVP: Who else contributes?
SH: We have three freshmen (Morgan Groh, Chelsey Dechellis, and Kelsie Anderson) that have given us a lot of depth that we didn’t have before and we have a solid returning sophomore (Zoe Woodbury) as well. All of those girls give us the type of depth that can make up for the occasional off routine.
We also have a junior who is out with injuries (Shelby Swafford), a Russian exchange student (Anna Glazunova) and the entire Piqua High School gymnastics team in our corner (a joke referring to the good-natured Morgan Campbell who practices with Northmont but competes by herself under the PHS banner).
Geannie, Kate and Allie have been our core. They’ve been scoring a lot of points all season in the all-around. Zoe and the other girls have done a great job of filling in those remaining spots. They’re a lot of fun, too. So, we are blessed, and yeah – we know it.
CM: Here at Centerville we have a core group of about five or six girls that compete in every meet, but we have fourteen that are out for the team. I can see potential in every single one of them. We’re taping a lot of ankles at practice, but we’re not dealing with major injuries. Last year we couldn’t say that.
MVP: Your teams sound like they know one another pretty well.
NB: Our girls have spent a lot of time together, and it is really hard not to like their kids. They work hard and they play hard, we love them to death. It think it says a lot about Steve that they are always like that. I like him a lot.
SH: We’ve been competing with those girls at Centerville for the last four years, and obviously, we know each other pretty well at this point. We’ve watched them grow every step of the way.
NB: At every meet, when Steve and I see each other we are going, “One, two! One, two!”
MVP: Since it isn’t against the rules, why don’t you utilize ringers?
SH: We simply won’t have any ringers. If there was one in our system that committed to.. if they said, “Hey, I want to step away from my club program this year and devote it to working out with the high school team,” then yeah they’d be more than welcome.
If they think they are going to be club gymnasts all year and then come over and be my little score-buster at the end of the season would cause some hard feelings on our team, as well as with most of the other teams in the area.
“There they go again (laughs)! Northmont’s pulling in another ringer and cooking the books at the end of the season!”
MVP: In not using them, don’t you guys sacrifice a competitive edge?
NB: It’s an edge we aren’t interested in having. Not here at Centerville and I doubt it will ever happen at Northmont.
SH: It isn’t usually a big issue until we go to state. There, a few teams from the north actually field two teams. One is the traditional high school team that we are very competitive with. Then after the cut-off date they bring in all of these level nine and level ten gymnasts that we simply cannot touch.
If we can make it to state – and most of the teams around here have this attitude – then we’ve hit our goal. To be competitive with the teams once we get there? Recent history tells us that we probably can’t do that. It’s just a different caliber of gymnast.
MVP: Have you guys ever been to the state meet as a team?
SH: Yeah, we went last year. We also went in 1987 and 1988. I was the coach then, too.
NB: We’ve had our swings, we’ve been really strong in the past. The last time we won the district meet was four years ago. Since then we’ve been dealing with a lot of injury issues. Last year, Lyndsey Welsh was out with mono. Now she has it again.
Another girl hurt her back (Nicole Schertzer). Becky (Norviel) missed her entire junior year to have knee surgery. Things are better on that front this year.
MVP: As a high school gymnast, what has been the highlight of your season?
CM: We placed first at a meet at Gem City Gym hosted by Northmont. We were really hitting that day and I think it was the first meet we actually won this year. We’d been having some frustrating practices and it was so good for our morale…
MVP: Yeah, but…
CM: OK, (laughter) then they came over to our place and returned the favor. We really do like (Northmont). They are a very nice – likable – team and they really light a fire under us every time they beat us. It’s probably a good thing that we don’t stay on top for very long. It’s easier for us to get motivated for practice that way.
KH: That story isn’t over. We’re going to see each other really, really soon. We think of them as friends and we’re going to be up for it. Winning at Centerville was definitely a highlight for us.
MVP: You are a leading contender to win it all in the pole vault?
KH: My personal record is 11-feet-4 and I set it at the state track meet last spring (she finished in a tie for sixth). I have one of the better returning PRs in the state, but I haven’t been vaulting yet so you never know.
MVP: That’s exactly what Mackenzie Wills (2008 D-III state champ and record holder from Troy Christian) said to me last winter, and you remember what happened to her. At the time her PR was no better than yours is now.
KH: Yep. I know Mackenzie, and yeah, that’s the plan hopefully. I’m not coming back from an injury like she did either. No one has to tell me that I have to work hard (laughs) but I am sure that Dad will probably do that anyway.
You know how he can be.