Gymnastics: Experienced roster, depth lift expectations for Hilliard Darby Panthers

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Jenna Hartwell is one of six seniors for Darby, which is scheduled to compete Jan. 4 at home against Bradley, Davidson, Olentangy Berlin and Olentangy Orange.

With a deep roster, which includes 15 athletes with high school experience, coach Carol Eskay has high expectations for the Hilliard Darby gymnastics team.  

That roster also includes six seniors, which should provide the Panthers with ample leadership.   

A key returnee is junior Annamarie Bayer, who led the Panthers at district last season, finishing 37th (32.775 points) in the all-around.  

She was 11th (8.975) on balance beam and 28th (8.675) on floor exercise.  

Senior Bailey Miller led the team on uneven bars (tied for 32nd, 8.175).  

Other key returnees include seniors Laurel Bonn, Madison Brokaw and Jenna Hartwell; also back are seniors Michaela Hamet and Kate Kline, juniors Anne Hassay, Rachel Jackson, Chloe Lidle and Samantha Saulino and sophomores Kassidy Etter, Emily Kline, Sophia Lidle and Mia Opperman.  

As a freshman, Hassay competed at state on floor exercise and balance beam and in the all-around before sitting out last season.  

Freshmen Ashley Cornathan, Abby Killilea and Clare Nicklas round out the team.  

“We have a really strong team,” said Eskay, who is in her 19th season. “We have six seniors and pretty much all of them compete in all-around. Anne is back, and we have a couple of newcomers as well who have really good gymnastics experience so there’s a lot of depth on Darby right now.”  

Darby is scheduled to compete Jan. 4 at home against Bradley, Davidson, Olentangy Berlin and Olentangy Orange.  

The Panthers, who finished fifth (16, 6-8) in the OCC-Cardinal Division last season, now compete in the division with Central Crossing, Dublin Jerome, Marysville, Olentangy, Olentangy Berlin and Thomas Worthington.  

A key loss to graduation was Scarlett Evans, who finished 38th (32.75) in the all-around last season at district.  

In the team standings at district, the Panthers tied Upper Arlington for seventh with 131.675 points as Thornville Sheridan (144.550), Olentangy Berlin (139.275) and Dublin Jerome (138.775) advanced to state.

Eskay, who also coaches Bradley and Davidson, has helped navigate her programs through the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  

“Of course, it’s tough; it’s challenging,” Eskay said. “I’ve been very impressed with my athletes and their resiliency, their flexibility. They’ve had to make some changes in practice, kind of last minute, and they’ve really responded well. They’re really working hard in practice and I’m really proud of them.”  

Senior Alice McAnespie is one of eight athletes for the Jaguars, who finished 11th at district last season.

Strong senior group is 

driving force for Jags 

Bradley will feature quality over quantity with a roster of only eight athletes in Eskay’s 12th season with the program. 

Seniors Gabi Graff, Paige Hamilton and Alice McAnespie will be leaders in and out of the gym. 

“We have some really solid senior leaders in Paige, Alice and Gabi,” Eskay said. “Gymnastics is a unique sport because you compete as an individual as well as being a part of a group. That experience helps them to be role models and lead by example. 

“And role models are especially important in this crazy year. They’ve been helping with masking, social distancing and hand sanitizing and other things. We started in smaller groups, and now we’re getting some more done in larger groups.” 

Junior Hailey Pond and sophomores Abby Granville, Averey Jervis and Gabrielle Lawhead return from last season, and freshman Lilly Gibbs rounds out the roster. 

“I think all eight girls will be able to compete in all four events, which is a strength for us,” Eskay said. “We can go six to eight deep in just about any event. If you have a full roster in each event you can even that up and not have everything resting on one or two of the girls.” 

Bradley finished fourth (20, 8-6) in the OCC-Cardinal last season but has moved to the OCC-Central along with Dublin Coffman, Grove City, Olentangy Orange, Upper Arlington, Westerville Central and Westland.  

The Jaguars were 11th with 129.8 points at last season’s district meet. 

“We’ve had some practices, but a lot of them haven’t been normal,” Eskay said. “We’re seeing things come together, but endurance and consistency go hand in hand. That’s a big focus right now to get them ready to compete.” 

–Scott Hennen 

McCabe, Tageson  

to lead Davidson  

Davidson should be led by seniors Megan McCabe and Hope Tageson.  

Tageson led the Wildcats at district last season, finishing 46th (32.225) in the all-around, and McCabe was 52nd (31.725).  

“We have a fairly young squad, but we have two solid returning gymnasts in Hope Tageson and Megan McCabe,” said Eskay, who is in her 19th season with the Wildcats. “They bring really good experience and leadership to our team this year.”  

Junior Gracie Bryner, who is in her first season, attends Watterson and has club experience, according to Eskay. Since Watterson does not have a gymnastics team, she is allowed to compete for Davidson.  

Other gymnasts are freshmen Malarie Finney, Maya McDonough, Kehlin Morgan and Kailee Steininiger.  

Davidson, which tied Central Crossing for fourth (18, 7-7) in the OCC-Central last season, now competes in the OCC-Buckeye with Big Walnut, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights, Olentangy Liberty, Worthington Kilbourne and Lancaster.  

“What I really like about it is we’re back to each of my three schools being in their own separate division, which is how it had been forever until the last realignment when they kept Darby and Bradley in the same division, Eskay said. “That’s fine, but it’s nice having the three schools in their own division.”  

A key loss to graduation was Dani Mason, who tied for 71st (30.4) in the all-around at district as the Wildcats were 16th (124.425) in the team standings.  

–Frank DiRenna  

 sports@thisweeknews.com  

@ThisWeekSPORTS  

BRADLEY 

•Coach: Carol Eskay, 12th season 

•Top athletes: Gabi Graff, Abby Granville, Paige Hamilton, Averey Jervis and Alice McAnespie 

•Key loss: Ashlee Mascolino 

•2019-20 OCC-Cardinal standings: Dublin Jerome and Olentangy Berlin (both 30, 13-1), Worthington Kilbourne (24, 10-4), Bradley (20, 8-6), Darby (16, 6-8), Dublin Scioto (10, 3-11), Delaware (8, 2-12), Thomas Worthington (5, 1-13) 

•2020 postseason: 11th at district 

DARBY  

•Coach: Carol Eskay, 19th season  

•Top athletes: Annamarie Bayer, Laurel Bonn, Madison Brokaw, Jenna Hartwell and Bailey Miller  

•Key loss: Scarlett Evans  

•2019-20 OCC-Cardinal standings: Berlin and Jerome (30, 13-1), Kilbourne (24, 10-4), Bradley (20, 8-6), Darby (16, 6-8), Scioto (10, 3-11), Delaware (8, 2-12), Thomas (5, 1-13)  

•2020 postseason: Tied for seventh at district  

DAVIDSON  

•Coach: Carol Eskay, 19th season  

•Top athletes: Megan McCabe and Hope Tageson  

•Key losses: Jessica Cramer, Chelsie Hartman and Dani Mason  

•2019-20 OCC-Central standings: Upper Arlington (32, 14-0), Marysville (28, 12-2), Grove City (24, 10-4), Central Crossing and Davidson (18, 7-7), Westland (12, 4-10), Dublin Coffman (8, 2-12), Franklin Heights (4, 0-14)  

•2020 postseason: 16th at district