The Westland High School gymnastics team used a long winter break to its advantage, with experienced athletes refining their skills and first-year competitors continuing their introduction to the sport.
After not competing since Dec. 20, the Cougars returned to action Jan. 10 and finished third (112.25) behind host Marysville (127.65) and Buckeye Valley (115.65) and ahead of Central Crossing (107.65) and Franklin Heights (53.6).
"For this group, it actually worked out in their favor," coach Brittany Maynard said. "They had a couple weeks off and we came back the first week of January and it was a fresh start for them. We got back in the gym (and) did routines again, ready to add new skills. We performed a lot of new skills in events (Jan. 10)."
The break gave sophomore Kennedy Budd time to sharpen her skills as she gears up for what Maynard hopes is a trip to the state meet in early March.
Budd led the Cougars at district last season, placing 20th of 90 gymnasts in the all-around (33.125). The top nine individuals in each event and the all-around advanced to state.
"We have a lot of things that we're going to push with Kennedy," Maynard said. "She got some good feedback from the judges (Jan. 10), so hearing that from somebody else other than us was a (key) moment. She has some goals already and she's looking forward to our 19-day break before our next competition (Jan. 29), thinking about what's reasonable to add to her routines as we get closer to OCC and district."
Budd led Westland at Marysville, finishing second in the all-around (33.25) behind Marysville's Mary Calvert (33.4). Budd was first on floor exercise (8.55), second on vault (8.25) and uneven bars (8.35) and third on balance beam (8.1).
Freshman Heaven Manbevers is quickly progressing, according to Maynard and her mother, Lavon Maynard, who share coaching duties with the Westland, Central Crossing and Franklin Heights programs.
"She has a great work ethic," Brittany Maynard said. "She's very dedicated, so coming into practice every day she wants to do well, she wants to get better and she's made tremendous improvement from day one to now."
Manbevers, whose primary sport is soccer, participated in recreational gymnastics when she was younger and decided to return to the sport in high school.
"I missed gymnastics," she said. "It's really fun to learn new skills. I'm learning how to control my body more and how to advance my skills."
Manbevers said team unity has been a strong point for the Cougars this season.
"I've gotten so close with these girls," she said. "I really didn't think I would get as close to them as I was with the girls in soccer, but I really am."
Juniors Ines De la Fuente and Vanessa Evans are in their third season in the program, while sophomores Geraian Barnette and Christina Zanish are in their first season. Also on the team are freshmen Isabelle Rodriguez and Kaylee Seabolt.
Evans has not competed after suffering a right ACL injury during the preseason.
Westland next competes Jan. 29 when it visits Upper Arlington for a meet that includes Central Crossing, Dublin Coffman, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Grove City and the host Golden Bears.
The Cougars then will prepare for the OCC-Central Division meet Feb. 10 at Hilliard Davidson.
Girls basketball team defeats Falcons
Although his team rallied to defeat visiting Franklin Heights 46-30 on Jan. 9, girls basketball coach Matt Jaynes wasn't totally pleased with the effort.
The Cougars trailed 12-5 before going on a 13-0 run in the second quarter to turn around the game.
Trinity McClure led Westland with 28 points.
"I told the girls be happy with the win, but not the effort," Jaynes said. "A win is a win and we will take them any way we can. The first quarter was a disaster as there were many missed calls, which resulted in me getting a technical. I saw a lot of growth in this team during this game. Trinity is our leader and it is pretty obvious the team goes as she goes."
McClure scored 12 points in a 63-18 loss to visiting Davidson on Jan. 5.
Westland was 3-8 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Central before playing Central Crossing on Jan. 12.
"We are looking to progress," Jaynes said. "I knew taking this job that it wouldn't be a one- or two-year fix, it will take time. One coach said we are already 300 percent better than we were when we took the program over. I am not satisfied with that number, as we left a few wins out there because of lack of hustle."
Boys basketball team continues to struggle
The boys basketball team was 0-11 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Central before playing Central Crossing on Jan. 12.
Westland lost at Franklin Heights 63-42 on Jan. 9 as DeShawn Evans scored 15 points and Zach Winegardner added 10.
Mitch Burns scored 10 points in a 60-28 loss at Davidson on Jan. 5.
"We are playing bad basketball too often (and) playing against the scoreboard rather than against the game itself, carrying mistakes into the next possession," coach Rob Hayes said. "All teams play bad basketball for stretches. We just have to minimize those stretches. I remain confident that we have the pieces to make progress and get wins in the second half of the season, but there is a process of evaluation that occurs day to day, game to game and change is necessary."
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 19 -- At Marysville. The Cougars lost to the Monarchs 89-56 on Dec. 8.
Jan. 20 -- Home vs. Columbus West
Jan. 17 -- At Briggs
*Jan. 19 -- Home vs. Marysville. The Cougars lost to the Monarchs 51-27 on Dec. 8.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 20 -- Central Crossing and Groveport at Urbancrest YMCA
*Jan. 18 -- At Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 20 -- Hamilton Township Classic