For the first time during the coaching tenure of Julie Kayser, members of the Dublin Coffman High School gymnastics team have experienced what it is like to win their biggest yearly home meet, the McGee Invitational.
On Jan. 12, the Shamrocks scored 135.375 points in the 28th annual event to finish first. Mason (133.575) placed second in the 14-team meet, with Upper Arlington (128.1), Beavercreek (127.525) and Jerome (125.925) rounding out the top five.
Brecksville-Broadview Heights, which had won the past four McGee Invitational titles, did not participate this season.
"This is very special for these girls, as well as the program, because it is the McGee," Kayser said.
The event is named in memory of Cindy McGee, a 1982 Dublin graduate who was a captain on the Shamrocks' 1982 state championship team and competed at the University of Illinois as a freshman and sophomore. In November 1983 in Champaign, Ill., she was struck by a car while riding a bicycle and slipped into a coma. She died Jan. 15, 1984, three days after being transferred to Ohio State University Medical Center.
The Franklin County coroner cited "cardiac arrest and possible pulmonary embolism" as the cause of death. But on Oct. 18, 2000, Michael Swango, a former resident physician at OSUMC, pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in McGee's death.
Leading the way for the Shamrocks in the McGee Invitational were sophomore Nicole Fusco, senior Shannon Downie and freshman Anna Pitts, each of whom finished in the top 10 in the all-around.
Fusco placed second (35.2) in the all-around behind DeSales' Kate Miltko (36.125) and finished third on the balance beam (8.85) and uneven bars (8.7), fourth on vault (8.85) and seventh on the floor exercise (8.8).
"She was solid on everything," Kayser said. "She tried a new vault and nailed it and she had no major mistakes. We started on vault and for her to nail that set the tone for her day."
"It was my first pike on vault," Fusco said. "After that, things were mostly the same on my routines, so it was a great confidence boost to start like that."
Downie placed sixth in the all-around (34.075), beam (8.65) and bars (8.4) and tied for eighth on vault (8.5), and Pitts finished ninth in the all-around (33.225), fifth on floor (8.9) and seventh on beam (8.55).
"To have three in the top 10 in the all-around was fantastic," Kayser said. "I'm very happy with all of their performances. We tried some new skills and some worked and some didn't, so we'll go back to work and perfect those that didn't. There's a lot of improvement we can make.
"This was only our fourth-best score of the (season). Our best is a 137.55, and we've also had a couple 136s."
Celtics post best score in McGee meet
Jerome posted its highest team score of the season in the McGee Invitational.
"I'm very, very pleased with our performance, as are the girls," coach Kristen Willms said. "We finally put all four events together. In previous meets, we'd score well on three events and poorly on another as a team.
"One of the problems was that due to injuries and illnesses, we hadn't put everyone in the positions where we need them to be. We were fully healthy for this and I think it showed. Now the girls can stop doubting themselves because they see they can be one of the best teams in central Ohio. This should help their confidence tremendously."
Sophomore Marissa Mangini placed sixth on floor (8.875) and tied for 10th on beam (8.25) and freshman Maddy Haab tied for 10th on bars (8.1).
"That was by far Marissa Mangini's best meet of the season," Willms said. "I thought Maddy Haab was very solid on three events, all but beam. I was happy for (freshman) Madisson Whitmer. She did a good job."
Irish coach pleased with team's progress
Scioto finished 12th in the McGee Invitational with a 102.325.
"I think we did really well," coach Elizabeth Back said. "It was our first meet doing all-around and (junior) Breanne Rooney handled it well. I thought she was strong and I feel so good for her."
Last season, the Irish had an individual compete in the all-around only in two meets.
Rooney was injured during the preseason and only recently returned to the lineup.
Back also liked what she saw from freshman Sonia Pattisam.
"The one thing which has bothered Sonia is the beam and we've been working hard on that," Back said. "She stayed on the beam (in the McGee Invitational) and didn't fall. Those are the types of things we're working on with all the girls, to take steps to correct weaknesses. They're all doing well."