On March 6, the Magnificat gymnastics team proved to be only second
best in Ohio – just barely. But the following day, one of its gymnasts
showed she was the best in Ohio – by a mile. And that gymnast was Kelly Nortz.
On March 6, the Magnificat gymnastics team proved to be only second best in Ohio – just barely. But the following day, one of its gymnasts showed she was the best in Ohio – by a mile.
And that gymnast was Kelly Nortz.
The sophomore overcame the disappointment of watching her Blue Streaks fall by a razor-thin total of .125 points to Brecksville-Broadview Heights in the team tournament by dominating the individual event. Nortz took first place in the vault, floor exercise and bar, which made her the obvious choice as the Ohio High/Huntington Bank Gymnast of the Year.
Not that her dominance surprised many. Nortz shared the spotlight in 2008 when she finished second to teammate Kelly Kmiecik in the all-around. But considering that Nortz missed nearly the entire 2009 regular season with a stress fracture in her tibia, the achievement was quite remarkable.
She lost six weeks and barely rounded into form in time for sectionals. In fact, she was quite concerned about her ability to perform until she proved herself early in the postseason.
“I was worried going in because I hadn’t even done floor yet, but when I did well (in sectionals) it brought up my confidence a lot,” Nortz explains. “I’m proud of what I accomplished, but I knew I was capable of it because at sectionals and districts no one was coming close to my scores.”
Magnificat had been a perennial team champion, but has given way to Brecksville-Broadview Heights, which came from behind to win its sixth consecutive title. This one was particularly tough to swallow, but Nortz didn’t allow it to affect her with the individual crown on the line.
“We did so well as a team and I’m proud that we did the best we could that Friday,” Nortz said. “I think the fact that we lost by such a close score gave me even more determination on Saturday.
“I knew I could do well. Most of the girls I was competing against are not going to be in gymnastics in college and that’s one of my main goals. I knew that the other girls looked at the events a little differently than I do because I need it for college. I think most of the other girls are just doing it for fun.”
Blue Streaks coach Joe Gura, however, doesn’t only see a serious side to Nortz’ approach to gymnastics. He appreciates her rather light-hearted outlook at the sport.
“If she took it very seriously, I don’t think it would work for her,” Gura says. “It always depends on personality. I think that day-to-day she has fun with gymnastics and she gets better too. But other athletes are very serious about their sport and that works for them.”
Gura recalls well when 10-year-old Kelly Nortz first appeared at Great Lakes Gymnastics, an Avon Lake establishment he owns. She stood out among the hundreds of young gymnasts, many of whom were preschoolers. It didn’t take long for Gura to realize that he had someone quite special under his tutelage.
“When she first came in, I remember her being very spunky with a lot of talent and a lot of energy,” Gura says. “She just liked to flip around and I knew she was going to be a good gymnast someday. When she was about 13, she really began making strides. She began developing her body and getting stronger and developing more twists than the other kids. Plus she was more of a free spirit and more good-natured than the other kids.”
Nortz’ parents had every reason to place their daughter in gymnastics class at a young age – she was climbing around everything in the house. But Nortz stresses that she was never pushed into the sport. She doesn’t even remember many details about her early gymnastics career, but she does recall being included with the better and older group of gymnasts well before she reached middle school.
The rest is history. Nortz would have won the individual state event a year ago if the talented Kmiecik hadn’t been standing in her way. And unless a younger gymnast from Magnificat or elsewhere in the state displays remarkable talent, it appears quite possible that Nortz will leave the high school ranks with three state championships.
And then what? Nortz knows that she wants to continue participating in the sport at the college level, but is leaving her options open.
“I want to get a scholarship, but I don’t know if I’m good enough to get one from one of the best colleges,” she admits.
She would like to combine athletics and academics, so she is considering studying nutrition. Nortz is also quite creative in other endeavors, such as scrapbooking.
If she’s creating a scrapbook that will include all the mementos of her achievements in gymnastics, it’s going to have to be a very thick book.