Worthington Kilbourne High School gymnastics coach Cindy Fushimi was a bit worried that her team would take a step backward this season after losing three key members to graduation, including three-time state qualifier Eric Rodriguez.
Those fears were quelled, however, last month after the Wolves began their preseason practice.
Kilbourne opened Dec. 8 by placing second (134.525) in the 16-team Forest Hills Flip Fest at Cincinnati Anderson behind Mason (136). Dublin Coffman was third (134.05) and Dublin Jerome was ninth (118.85).
Sophomore Allie Guist won the uneven bars (8.825).
"We lost some of our depth with three strong seniors graduating, so I was a little concerned that we might not be as strong this year," said Fushimi, who is in her 21st season. "But we picked up a club gymnast (Guist) who will help us pick up some of the scores, and after we got back to practice and I saw the way the girls have been progressing in the first month, I'm not really worried anymore."
Back to lead the Wolves are seniors Selena Fushimi-Karns, juniors Katie Armstrong and Celeste Fushimi-Karns and sophomore Kayla Rice.
Rounding out the roster are senior Paige Martinski, juniors Emily Juhola, Sally Locher and Sierra Parks, sophomores Madeline Beal, Gillian Hane, Samantha Ingham, Marlee Pavlechko and Kaitlin Troutner and freshman Kayla Shelby.
"These are nice kids who are fun to work with," Fushimi said. "All of our girls are improving and our sophomore group has probably improved the most overall."
Last season, the Wolves captured their third consecutive OCC-Central Division championship, as they went 5-0 in league duals and won the league meet with 134.75 points, finishing ahead of Olentangy Liberty (126.95), Delaware (116.075), Hilliard Davidson (111.325), Westland (92.75) and Dublin Scioto (83.95). Kilbourne finished with 24 points in the overall league standings. Liberty was second (20, 4-1), followed by Davidson (14, 3-2), Delaware (14, 2-3), Scioto (6, 1-4) and Westland (6, 0-5).
In the league meet, Selena Fushimi-Karns won both the vault (9.2) and the all-around (34.45) and Rice finished first on bars (8.125).
Kilbourne missed advancing to the state meet as a team for the first time since 2009, as it placed fifth (136.6) at district behind state-qualifiers Grove City (140.075), Coffman (139.375) and Thomas Worthington (137.345) as well as fourth-place Olentangy (137.225).
Rodriguez tied for third in the all-around (35.425), placed third on bars (8.65), tied for sixth on vault (9.175) and tied for sixth on floor exercise (9.0) as the top nine finishers in each district event, including the all-around, advanced to state.
Selena Fushimi-Karns tied for fourth on floor (9.025).
In the individual state meet at Hilliard Bradley, Rodriguez placed 20th in the all-around (35.25), tied for 19th on vault (9.075), placed 28th on floor (8.925) and finished 30th on bars (8.5). Selena Fushimi-Karns placed 36th on floor (8.05).
"We always hope to finish strong in the OCC, but Olentangy Liberty is always tough competition for us," Fushimi said.
Cardinals aiming for another strong season
Thomas opens Friday, Dec. 14, with a quad-meet at Washington Court House Miami Trace with Olentangy Orange and Washington Court House.
Returning to lead the Cardinals are seniors Anna Glover, Hannah Johnson and Kacie Washburn, juniors Chandler Adamaitis and Leah Carloni and sophomores Haley Carnahan and Erica Roggenkamp.
Rounding out the roster are senior Elizabeth Green, juniors Kendyl Faiello, Lexey Parish and Lauren Parks, sophomores Megan Fierro and Meagan Williams and freshmen Shae Bernard, Leisi Ludwig and Rachel Mackov.
"We're completely balanced with girls who are returning for us and new faces who already can tumble because they've done cheerleading or dancing in the past," 17th-year coach Marci Skeen said. "Leisi is a competitive cheerleader with a gymnastics background. Kendyl, Lexey and Lauren have experience in dance and cheer, and all four of them are going to help us out this season."
Last season, Thomas saw its two-year reign as OCC-Ohio champion end. The Cardinals went 3-2 in league duals and finished fourth (131.2) in the league meet behind Coffman (136.475), Grove City (136.225) and Olentangy (135.125) and ahead of Upper Arlington (125.875) and Hilliard Darby (116.075). In the final league standings, Thomas finished fourth with 13 points, behind Coffman (24, 5-0), Olentangy (19, 4-1) and Grove City (17, 3-2) and ahead of UA (8, 1-4) and Darby (4, 0-5).
Thomas placed third at district to secure the final state-qualifying berth.
Carloni qualified for state in the all-around (sixth, 35.225) as well as on vault (third, 9.25), bars (tied for eighth, 8.6) and the balance beam (eighth, 8.775). Glover was district runner-up on beam (9.15) and 2012 graduate Tatiana Diaz-Packard tied for fourth on vault (9.2).
The Cardinals finished ninth (134.5) of 12 teams at state behind champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights (148).
In the individual state meet, Carloni placed 25th in the all-around (35.1), eighth on bars (9.125), tied for 24th on beam (8.625) and 28th on vault (8.875), Glover tied for 15th on beam (8.825) and Diaz-Packard was 35th on vault (8.45).
"Our goals are to win the OCC and place in the top three at district to take our seniors back to their fourth state meet," Skeen said. "We just need to keep improving and stay healthy."