Issue 1: Gymnastics team prospers with new coach

Loosening up before practice, freshman Ashley Ammann stretches in a straddle position.
Loosening up before practice, freshman Ashley Ammann stretches in a straddle position.

By Ashley Hocking

Although threatened with cuts due to a tight budget, team size and coaches, all 13 gymnastics programs in the state of Kansas are still active, including the LHS girls gymnastics team.

The girls gymnastics program is thriving this year after last season was threatened by budget cuts looming over gymnastics programs statewide. These cuts were due to a decreasing number of gymnasts. This was especially true of the LHS team which consisted of a meager six girls.

The program’s existence was also in danger because of the lack of coaches. Over the summer, Jessica McMurray was hired to replace Danielle Hayes, who spent one year coaching both city high schools’ gymnastics programs, which continue to practice together.

Last year, practices were held at Free State, but the location of practices change every year.

“We’re just kind of going back and forth to make it fair,” said junior Allison Williams, a second-year returner to the gymnastics team.

Cheryl Gleason, the assistant executive director of gymnastics at the Kansas State High School Activities Association, said participation rates for gymnastics in the state of Kansas have been steady recently.

“Participation rates have been pretty constant,” Gleason said. “In years near the Olympics, the numbers have spiked a little bit.”

At the end of the season last year, three of the six girls on the team graduated. This was a minor speed bump for the remaining half of the gymnastics team.

Five experienced gymnasts have joined the team this year, including junior Jessie Abernathy. Abernathy has been doing gymnastics at Lawrence Gymnastics Academy (LGA) since she was two.

“I think we’re gonna do better than the team did last year,” Abernathy said. “We have a lot of new girls on the team who are talented gymnasts from LGA.”

Girls on the team have expressed their confidence in their new coach’s ability to shape them into an extraordinary team for the new season.

“She’s a lot stricter than Danielle was,” Williams said. “But I think that’s good for us because she’s trying to get us in good shape and she really want us to do good this year.”

With a brand new team, coach and confidence in the program, excitement courses through the veins of the gymnasts who faced their season opener on Sept. 6 at Shawnee Mission East.

“I’m really excited for this year especially because I’m a returning gymnast,” Williams said. “I was glad that there was still high school gymnastics. I can’t live without gymnastics.”

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