We are deep in the high school gymnastics season and only about a month away from postseason competition.

We are deep in the high school gymnastics season and only about a month away from postseason competition.

Central Ohio again has its share of fine teams and individuals. What is unique about this particular year is that in a sport which is often dominated by freshmen and sophomores, three of the area's best performers are seniors. Hailey Fairchild of Dublin Coffman, Nicole Saunders of Grove City and Gracey Brown of DeSales have had excellent performances.

For Brown, this year likely will mark the end of a gymnastics career that began at the age of 7.

"This final season of high school gymnastics has actually been refreshing for me," said Brown, who plans to attend college at Kentucky or Cincinnati. "I love the team aspect of my sport and I love the fact that DeSales takes gymnastics seriously. The reason I am happy this year and the reason I know I will miss my sport next year is really being part of a team that is motivated to get better and likes to work hard.

"I do have personal goals, but what happens with our team is more important to me. For myself, I just want to work to my potential. I don't always have to be the best performer out there, but I want to do my best so it can benefit our team. Gymnastics is a demanding sport that takes hours of practice and, sometimes over the years that I have competed, it has become overwhelming. But I have found that all the hard work has paid off and the rigors of the sport have taught me skills that I can use in real life."

Using her talents is something Brown has done really well so far this season. On Jan. 10, she won the all-around at the home Sweeney-Smith Invitational, finishing first on bars, beam and floor. She won floor at the Hilliard Invitational and won beam at both the Cindy McGee Invitational and at Hilliard.

"Each year is sort of different, but this year my best event has been the beam," she said. "My favorite event is floor exercise because I find it fun and challenging and you have to use all of your energy.

"My goals for the rest of the season are first to stay healthy and then to always do my best and have lots of fun without worrying so much. Team-wise our goal is to be district champions and give it our best shot at the state championship meet."

Reflecting on her career as a gymnast, Brown said: "Gymnastics has done lots of things for me. It has taught me how to discipline myself in every aspect of life. It has taught me how to be a determined person who seeks to improve every day.

"If I could give advice to younger girls who are thinking about trying this sport, I would say to be positive and stay in the sport for your own enjoyment. There is so much work to be done, but it can be exciting and fun and if you give gymnastics a try. Remember that you can never do anything halfway. You always must try to reach your own potential."

Brown, Saunders and Fairchild are great role models for younger students. They have taken a sport, embraced it and been successful. That should be the simple goal for each and every athlete.