First things first

Before Columbus North’s “big three” gymnasts take center stage on each of the four events, the Bull Dogs have a “table setter.”

Two girls share that role for a team that is ranked second in the state and has championship aspirations for Saturday’s state finals at Ball State. Sophomore Kaitlyn Calandro leads off North’s rotation on the vault and beam, and freshman Tova Edwards leads off on the bars and floor.

“I feel like it’s placed a tremendous amount of pressure on them, given the skill level that Ashley (Holliday) and Katrina (May) and Claire (Thompson) compete,” North co-coach Sandy Freshour said. “It’s going to require high eights and low nines to set the table for the state meet with all the competitive teams that we have there.”

In high school gymnastics, each team is allowed four competitors per event, and the top three count toward the team’s point total. May, Holliday and Thompson usually score for the Bull Dogs, but there have been exceptions.

One of those exceptions came in Saturday’s Columbus East Regional. Calandro led off with a personal-best 8.825 on the beam, and when May had two uncharacteristic falls on that event, Calandro’s score ended up helping North remain in the lead on its way to the team title.

“Kaitlyn finally came to a new height at regional, and it was apparent how much that affected our team score when she came out there and did that,” Freshour said. “She’s had her moment of glory, and hopefully, that will be the inspiration she needs to repeat that performance.”

Calandro also led off with a personal-best 8.825 on the vault. She was slowed by an ankle injury earlier in the season, but recently added skill on the vault by doing a tsuk, round off with a back tuck.

Although her score on vault didn’t count toward the team’s total, she set the bar for the big three, all of which went above 9.6.

“Kaitlyn was a rock star the last meet and really did take some pressure off the team,” said North’s other co-coach, Bob Arthur. “Tova, as a freshman, this is kind of a new ballgame for her, but she’s coming along. She’s been able to do some things that hopefully, if we can put it together in a meet, will take a little pressure off.”

Edwards’ scores have been a little higher on the floor than on the bars. She scored an 8.4 on the floor in the regional.

Freshour characterized Edwards’ first year of high school gymnastics as a baptism by fire.

“Tova is working really hard,” Freshour said. “We picked her early because of her skill and catapulted her right to the fire. She’s definitely a gymnast with a lot of talent and a lot of great opportunity to contribute.”

Both Calandro and Edwards have been able to learn from their more experienced and high-profile teammates, both in and out of the gym.

Calandro said the Bull Dogs’ big three are like teachers. If any of the younger gymnasts have questions, May, Holliday and Thompson are willing to help them out.

“I’ve learned how to do some of my skills better, like giants on bars,” Edwards said. “I’ve learned to show off my (floor) routine a little bit more.”

Saturday afternoon, they’ll be on Indiana gymnastics’ biggest stage, looking to perfect those routines. While North hopes its big three don’t have any falls, the Bull Dogs know if they do, they have capable replacements in Calandro and Edwards.

“It’s been stressful, but we’ve been doing good,” Calandro said. “I think we’re all just wanting to do our best. I just want to nail my beam routine and stick my vault.”

If you go

IHSAA state gymnastics finals

When: Saturday, 1 p.m. (opening ceremonies at 12:30 p.m.)

Where: Worthen Arena, Ball State University

Teams: Columbus East, Columbus North, Chesterton, Crown Point, Elkhart Central, Fort Wayne Dwenger, Homestead, Owen Valley, Valparaiso

Tickets: $9

Can’t make the trip to Muncie? Follow The Republic on Twitter (@therepublicnews) and on Facebook for live updates throughout the day.

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.