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GYMNASTICS PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules
FCN PREV GYM 012916 web

FORSYTH CENTRAL

Head coach: Laurie Karickhoff

Opening meet: Saturday, Feb. 6, at BIO Gymnastics

Key returners: Macie Winter, Sr.; Mackenzie Miller, Jr.; Emily Flint, Jr.; Lauren Gist, So.

Even with four departing seniors, Forsyth Central will return the core of its team that qualified for state and finished fourth, just behind county rival Lambert, last season.

Emily Flint had a fifth place finish on vault at state last season, while Mackenzie Miller finished sixth on beam. Both girls return as upperclassmen and the new leaders of the unit, which is set to battle an uphill climb in the preseason.

Central head coach Laurie Karickhoff hopes a few injuries from the offseason can heal, and that many gymnasts who have retired from club can get back into tip-top shape. Some team members have not been in a competitive match since last April.

“They’ve got to get back into competition condition,” Karickhoff said. “But I believe they will by the time the season gets into full swing.”

Karickhoff says an incoming freshman class of six girls will bolster the depth. She hopes the team can improve from its state performance last year, as well as re-claiming the county championship from Lambert.

 

LAMBERT

Head coach: Avery Baxter

Opening meet: Saturday, Feb. 20, at BIO Gymnastics

Key returners: Biz White, Sr.; Bethany Chung, Jr.; Madison Lord, Jr.; Alaina Steinberg, Jr.

Lambert has the simple team motto “fight for more.” After raising the bar last season, the Lady Longhorns will look to some new faces to return to a top-three finish at state. They also want to make sure they retain the county title.

Five freshmen will make up the roster, and collectively, the team will need to find a way to replace Katie Stuart (now at the University of Kentucky) and Delaney Givens from last year’s club.

“Since the majority of our team is underclassmen, the beginning of our season has the potential to start slow,” head coach Avery Baxter said. “We really want to place in state again this year.”

Biz White qualified as a vaulter at state last season, and will join experienced state qualifiers in Madison Lord and Alaina Steinberg. Bethany Chung also returns after battling injuries through last year.

Baxter hopes state experience will benefit the entire team’s approach to the year.

“We will be tweaking their routines as we see how the judges score them to best fit GHSA standards,” Baxter said. “The benefit of a returning gymnast on the team is that we already have an idea on how their routines typically score in high school gymnastics.”

 

SOUTH FORSYTH

Head coach: Christine Naffky

Opening meet: Saturday, Feb. 6, at BIO Gymnastics

Key returners: Maddy Sims, Sr.; Maddison Riner, So.; Emily Smith, Jr.

Head coach Christine Naffky joins South Forsyth, replacing Kelly Lamb, after a three-year tenure at Lambert high school.

Much like Central, South Forsyth is entering the year with some nagging, unexpected injuries. As well, two of its top gymnasts are taking the non-club route through the rest of their high school campaign, including Maddison Riner and Emily Smith. Maddy Sims will lead the way, after winning first place on floor and finishing second all-around at the county meet last season. Sims, Smith and Marin Green qualified for prelims last year and hope to make a run at state level competition.

“We’re hoping everyone stays healthy and strong and the team qualifies for the state gymnastics competition,” Naffky said. Naffky likes the fact her team is close-knit, saying they “support each other 100 percent, even outside of the gym.”

Freshmen Sarah Mixon and Haleigh Laws add young athleticism to the team. Mixon is joining the War Eagles, complementary to her club team.

 

WEST FORSYTH

Head coach: Ashley Owen

Opening meet: Saturday, Feb. 6, at BIO Gymnastics

Key returners: Jennifer Meakin, Sr.; Katelyn Wise, Sr.

Last season was Ashley Owen’s first year back with West Forsyth, and the Lady Wolverines hit a milestone by sending their first athlete to the state prelims since the program began in 2010.

Owen wants her new-look Wolverines to qualify at least three gymnasts at prelims this season and get one to state. She’ll lean heavily on seniors Jennifer Meakin, Katelyn Wise and high-level gymnasts Aundria Crittenden and Amanda Murgash.

For Owen, the biggest challenge is one all-too common in the sport: while her team has talent, the athletes will have to balance club competition with their obligations on varsity in GHSA competition. The bright side to that is the technical training of her gymnasts.

“It’s hard to focus everyone onto GHSA gymnastics from USAG gymnastics,” Owen said. “We’re going to work on increasing our focus … (but) we have more girls currently competing in (club) than we’ve had in recent years, so the training is there.”

The Lady Wolverines will have seven new members on the team, including high-level freshman Sienna Schreiber.