Gymnastics: 'Dedicated' Dublin Jerome Celtics seek more success
According to coach Kristen Willms, doing “whatever it takes” has been the focus for the Dublin Jerome gymnastics team this winter.
When practices were allowed for prep teams last summer, Willms immediately was impressed with the work ethic she saw from the athletes she works with in all three Dublin programs.
The Celtics have added a trio of freshmen with past experience in the sport and again are aiming high after making appearances at the state meet each of the past two seasons.
“We have a really good group this year,” Willms said. “The girls have been so dedicated. We did twice as many hours over the summer as we usually do to help them get back into shape and get their skills back on track. They have a really positive outlook and they really just want to compete. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to get to compete and we’ll be ready.”
Two of Jerome’s top three gymnasts from the past two seasons, senior Izzy Willms and junior Raegan Ernst, have returned to lead the way.
Ernst won her second consecutive district all-around championship last winter, scoring 37.425 as Jerome finished third (138.775) to place behind Thornville Sheridan (144.55) and Olentangy Berlin (139.275).
She also helped the Celtics share the OCC-Cardinal Division championship with Berlin as both teams scored 30 points and went 13-1. Those teams, along with Hilliard Darby and Thomas Worthington, remain in the OCC-Cardinal and are now joined by Central Crossing, Marysville and Olentangy after the OCC’s latest realignment.
Ernst, who also was district champion on balance beam (9.35) and uneven bars (9.45) and was district runner-up on floor exercise (9.425) and vault (9.2), followed with a ninth-place finish in the all-around (36.725) at state after placing 12th in 2019. Also at state, Ernst tied for seventh on floor (9.425), tied for ninth on beam (9.225), placed 20th on bars (8.75) and tied for 17th on vault (9.325).
In addition, she helped Jerome improve from an 11th-place finish in 2019 to eighth (138.55) last winter.
Izzy Willms is a program veteran who finished 14th in the all-around (34.575) at district.
Senior Carrie Gosky and sophomore Kaylee Loper are returnees who also are likely to compete in the all-around.
Freshmen Ella Cooper, Lyvia Matthews and Taylor Walker should fill key roles, although Matthews has been out with a knee injury.
Sophomore Prish Patel is another looking to contribute.
“As a coach, I just want to see these kids compete,” coach Willms said. “This group has the potential to once again make it to states and compete with the best in the state. I've been trying to focus on preparation and being ready for anything. We need to stay healthy and prevent injuries since we are lacking in depth, so that has to be the focus right now. If we can do that and stay healthy, I think we will be in the running for a lot of success this year.”
After finishing 24th at district in 2019 and then not having enough competitors to post a team score at last year’s district meet, Coffman’s participation numbers are trending upward.
Eight athletes came out for the team this winter, with sophomore Emily Yoshino leading the way after she qualified for the all-around at state last season and won the OCC-Capital all-around championship with a 35.6.
In the OCC's new alignment, the Shamrocks and UA now are in the OCC-Central with Grove City, Hilliard Bradley, Olentangy Orange, Westerville Central and Westland.
“This is a really exciting year for Coffman,” coach Willms said. “After four years of low numbers and not being able to put together a team score, we have a really solid group this year with a lot of potential in our new gymnasts. For most of the team, this will be their first experience with high school gymnastics but they all have a gymnastics background through a club. Our team is very young (with) no seniors this year, so it’s exciting to know that for several of them, the journey is just starting. They’ve handled all the changes as well as I could have asked for.”
Yoshino earned the eighth and final state-qualifying berth in the all-around (35.825) at district and finished 17th (36.175) at state. She also tied for fourth on floor (9.3) at district and tied for seventh (9.425) in that event at state, was fifth at district on beam (9.15) and tied for 25th (8.875) at state and placed eighth at district on vault (8.875) and tied for 26th (9.175) at state.
Junior Jordan Jones and sophomore Alexis Colombo also competed at district.
Freshman Avery Ragland is expected to be among the team’s top scorers.
Junior Lorian Crispin and her freshman sister, Aleigha Crispin, and freshmen Quinn Hammond and Ainsley Jajack are others looking to make an impact.
“I will have several all-arounders again this year,” coach Willms said. “With a small team, they’re all going to have to contribute to be successful. I’m so excited because I think this group can be very competitive in their OCC. … My goal would be to have Coffman represented at the state meet again and I think we can do that.”
Irish add depth,
lose top gymnast
Scioto has added depth this season, which should allow it to again record a team score. But the team will be without its top competitor from a year ago.
Sophomore Taylor Thacker, who qualified for state on floor, has opted not to compete this season.
Thacker tied for fourth (9.475) of 36 competitors at state to become the first gymnast in program history to finish in the top six and reach the awards podium. She was the program’s first state qualifier since 2010.
Willms hopes Thacker returns next season.
“We lose Taylor, which really stinks, but we have five all-around good girls,” Willms said.
Sophomores Elena Charria (54th, 31.575) and Kaitlyn Bassingthwaite (tied for 61st, 31.175) and senior Sara Sun (94th, 28.025) also competed in the all-around at district last season as the Irish finished 15th (124.775).
Freshmen Thatiyana Haley and Karen Lee have joined the program.
“They don’t have tons of club experience, but with practice both of them can contribute,” Willms said. “When you’re trying to grow a program, half of the battle is getting kids to come in and try it and see if they like it. We’ll still be able to put together a team score, which is good.
“We’ll miss Taylor, but I still have high hopes that we’ll be able to build on what we did last year.”
Willms is hoping to reschedule meets that were postponed in December because of the pandemic.
“The kids have done such a good job of staying positive and they’re continuing to work hard and prepare as if everything was normal,” Willms said. “I’m so thankful that kids are the way that they are. They just roll with it.”
The Irish will compete in the OCC-Buckeye with Big Walnut, Delaware, Franklin Heights, Hilliard Davidson, Olentangy Liberty, Worthington Kilbourne and Lancaster.
•Coach: Kristen Willms, fifth season
•Top athletes: Aleigha Crispin, Lorian Crispin, Quinn Hammond, Avery Ragland and Emily Yoshino
•Key loss: Allexia Dempsey
•2019-20 OCC-Capital standings: Upper Arlington (32, 14-0), Marysville (28, 12-2), Grove City (24, 10-4), Central Crossing and Hilliard Davidson (18, 7-7), Westland (12, 4-10), Coffman (8, 2-12), Franklin Heights (4, 0-14)
•2020 postseason: Did not score at district
•Coach: Kristen Willms, 11th season
•Top athletes: Ella Cooper, Raegan Ernst, Carrie Gosky, Kaylee Loper, Taylor Walker and Izzy Willms
•Key losses: Grace Krouse and Sydney White
•2019-20 OCC-Cardinal standings: Jerome and Olentangy Berlin (30, 13-1), Worthington Kilbourne (24, 10-4), Hilliard Bradley (20, 8-6), Hilliard Darby (16, 6-8), Scioto (10, 3-11), Delaware (8, 2-12), Thomas Worthington (5, 1-13)
•2020 postseason: Third at district, eighth at state
•Coach: Kristen Willms, fifth season
•Top athletes: Kaitlyn Bassingthwaite, Elena Charria and Sara Sun
•Key loss: Taylor Thacker
•2020 postseason: 15th at district