A third straight trip to the state meet this season will depend on two things for Clay’s girls’ gymnastics team.
First, fourth-year coach Nick Distel hopes a couple of injured veterans can pull their weight this year. Second, the Eagles will have to get contributions from a trio of freshmen.
Clay placed eighth at last year’s state meet after finishing 11th in 2011. The Eagles’ top gymnast over the past four years, two-time All-Ohioan Kylee Ault, graduated last spring and is now a cheerleader at Bowling Green State University.
That leaves room for a talented but young group to step in and take charge of this year’s team. Five key contributors to the team’s run to the last two state meets return in juniors Jody DeMeo, Emilie Roman, Erin Gyurke, Amtheyst Floyd and Sydney McGath.
Floyd, however, is coming off a torn ACL in the offseason, while Gyurke is nursing a bad ankle. Those two injuries hampered Clay’s performance in its first meet of the season, Dec. 8 at Sunrise Gymnastics Academy against competitors from Notre Dame Academy, Central Catholic and some other schools. Notre Dame took first place, while the Eagles were second.
“We knew the first few meets we were going to try to figure out what’s going to work and what’s not going to work and add a little more difficulty as we go,” Distel said. “We’re going with the flow and seeing where we fit in and just go from there. The juniors understand the freshmen are new at understanding what’s going on. We’re just trying to get in shape, basically.”
DeMeo was a first-team All-Ohio performer last season and has upgraded her floor routine with more degree of difficulty.
“Jody is just a really clean gymnast,” Distel said. “She’s real quiet in the gym, works real hard and is determined. Ask Jody to do something and there’s no doubt she will try to do it. Her new routine should put her in top five at districts, which would put her at state. She splits time between another gym and us, and her other coaches have done a good job with her. She’s going to be a real strong contender for the all-around title at districts.”
Distel said Roman, who has also been battling some nagging injuries, should be a contender for first-team All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference honors.
“We are trying to slowly integrate her into the lineup,” the coach said. “She doesn’t have all her difficulty into her routines yet. She had a shoulder issue, so we held her out of the bars at the first meet. She’s one of those kids who also may make it into the top five at districts.”
Gyurke, who also runs cross country, has had foot issues throughout her career, Distel said, so he is cautious to get her back in the lineup.
“She’s a very good athlete and a kid who really doesn’t have to do gymnastics,” he said. “She likes it so much and just really wants to do it. She did just beam in the first meet, but she probably will not compete in vault at all this year. She’s a great kid to have around. She has the most positive attitude.”
Distel said he is optimistic that Floyd, who had surgery on her ACL in June, will be able to compete in bars and beam prior to the district meet in February.
“She’s an all-arounder, too, that we don’t have this year,” Distel said. “The freshmen have to step up. Sydney McGath is working hard on upgrading all the skills she can do. This year I have her competing in some more events. She’s got a good attitude and she’s a very good teammate to have.”
Sophomore Sierra Watson competed for the first time last year and has picked up some new skills, according to Distel.
“She’s a kid who has consistently been getting better,” he said. “She’s definitely a kid we need to depend on this year for all the events.”
The Eagles should also get contributions from freshmen Ashley Oneal, Kayla Dickerson and Katelyn Ploof. All three, Distel said, will have to fill a role because of all the injuries.
“Kayla, in her first meet, did really well on bars and really filled that void we have,” Distel said. “Katelyn started gymnastics about four years ago and we’re trying to get her skills upgraded, and she’s done a nice job with that. She’s definitely an asset to the team.
“Ashley hasn’t competed in about a year in a half after breaking her foot. She also decided to grow about six inches. She’s now 5-foot-8 and all arms and legs. She’s been with me since she was about 6 years old. We count on her in every event. She’s won state championships at different levels, and she always places real high in floor.”
Clay’s next meet is Dec. 28 at Findlay.