With four athletes back from last season and the addition of a talented freshman, Westland High School gymnastics coach Lavon Maynard is confident her team can continue its improvement.

Leading the way should be junior Kennedy Budd, who paced the Cougars last season at district, finishing 41st in the all-around (31.425). Her top performance came on the floor exercise as she tied for 26th (8.675).

The Cougars opened Dec. 12 by finishing fifth (91) behind first-place Hilliard Darby (129.025) in a seven-team meet at Hilliard Davidson.

Budd led Westland by finishing second in the all-around (32.6) behind Davidson's Nikia Scurlock (33.6), who is a two-time state qualifier. Budd was second on balance beam (8.7) and tied for third on floor (8.6).

"Kennedy has to stay positive and continue to perform throughout the season," Maynard said.

Budd is hoping to qualify for her first state meet.

"I'm definitely excited about a little bigger team this year because it's always nice to have a good team score," she said. "(Qualifying for state) is always the goal at the end of the year. It's nice being someone the younger girls look up to."

Senior Ines De La Fuente, who finished 69th in the all-around (28.9) at district last winter, tied for seventh on vault (7.8) at Davidson.

"She's definitely one of my most dedicated and determined gymnasts," Maynard said. "She works very hard. She never misses a practice. I've seen her improve from her freshman to her senior year."

De La Fuente is looking forward to having a strong final season.

"I definitely have to be a leader," she said. "I want to give them my experience and teach them how to improve their performances and just have fun. ... It makes me proud representing Westland all four years and just always being out there."

Sophomore Heaven Manbevers is back after finishing 89th (24.075) in the all-around at district.

Also returning is sophomore Kaylee Seabolt, who is expected to miss the early part of the season with an illness.

Maynard said the Cougars have added a promising freshman in Hayley Branscome, who previously competed at the club level. She missed the opening meet because of an illness.

Freshman Aileen Plascencia rounds out the team.

"My first goal is to get them all healthy ... and have a full team score," Maynard said. "Ultimately, we'd hope that Hayley and Kennedy can make state."

Westland didn't lose any gymnasts to graduation, but a key contributor to the coaching staff left as Brittany Maynard has taken over the program at Upper Arlington. She was with Westland for nine seasons and shared head coaching duties with her mother, who also coaches Central Crossing and Franklin Heights.

Wrestlers finish fifth at Big Walnut

The wrestling team placed fifth (145) of 17 teams in the Big Walnut Classic on Dec. 8 behind champion Dublin Coffman (287.5).

Bryson Palmer finished first at 126 pounds. Jakob Hurley (145) and Andrew Sherman (195) finished second, Tyler Jude (113) was fourth, Kyle Newman (220) finished sixth and Colby Lightfoot (126) and Brenden Wiseman (152) were eighth.

"I thought we wrestled hard against solid competition," coach Brent Allerding said. "We definitely got better, which is the most important thing."

Girls basketball team making progress

The girls basketball team was 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Central before playing Coffman on Dec. 14.

"We are playing like a team, sharing the ball, and we have four girls averaging over eight points a game," coach Matt Jaynes said. "We have had at least six girls score in every game, which is a huge step for us."

Atira Hoard scored 10 points and Shukri Abdikadir, Hannah Kershaw and Hayden Kershaw each added eight in a 42-38 overtime loss to visiting Centennial on Dec. 12.

Abdikadir scored 11 points and Hannah Kershaw had 10 in a 61-35 loss to visiting Marysville on Dec. 7.

"Through (the first) four games, we missed a total of 96 layups and in our (first two) losses we had 40 and 44 turnovers, respectively," Jaynes said. "That will kill any team."

Boys basketball team looking to bounce back

The boys basketball team was 1-5 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Central before playing Coffman on Dec. 14.

DeShawn Evans scored 17 points and Gaige Holbrook and Eric Panning each added 12 in a 66-57 loss at Hamilton Township on Dec. 12.

Kalil Camara scored 17 points, Panning had 16 and Holbrook added 15 in a 70-62 loss to visiting St. Charles on Dec. 8.

Westland opened league play with a 66-42 loss at Marysville on Dec. 7. Rece Evans scored 10 points.

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Schedules

GYMNASTICS

Dec. 12 -- at *Hilliard Davidson with Central Crossing, *Franklin Heights, Grove City, Hilliard Bradley and Hilliard Darby

Jan. 16 -- at *Marysville with Central Crossing, Franklin Heights and Grove City

Jan. 21 -- at *Dublin Coffman with Central Crossing, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto and Franklin Heights

Jan. 28 -- at *Upper Arlington with *Central Crossing, Franklin Heights and Thornville Sheridan

Feb. 9 -- OCC-Central meet at Thomas Worthington

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Westland boys basketball, girls basketball and swimming & diving teams:

BOYS BASKETBALL

Dec. 18 -- Home vs. Pickerington North

*Dec. 21 -- At Upper Arlington

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Dec. 18 -- At Pickerington North

*Dec. 21 -- Home vs. UA

SWIMMING & DIVING

Dec. 21 -- Dublin Scioto at Dublin Recreation Center

Dec. 22 -- Mount Vernon Invitational at Kenyon College

*League contest