Three-tenths of a point is all that separated Columbus North from a second consecutive gymnastics state championship.
The Bull Dogs lost a key piece of those two teams in Ashley Holliday, last year’s state vault champion and third-place all-around finisher. But they return four-time state champion Claire Thompson.
“She’s a good leader,” said Bob Arthur, who co-coaches the North team with Sandy Freshour. “She’s taken the reins of the captaincy in her hands and done a great job with organizing the girls on some things. She’s pushing. She wants to see this team make it back to Muncie.”
Thompson won state bars, beam and all-around titles as a sophomore, when the Bull Dogs won the team title. Last year, she won the beam and placed second in the all-around to lead North to a runner-up team finish.
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As a football cheerleader in the fall, Thompson didn’t spend as much time in the gym as she would have liked, but she has been pleased with what she’s been able to do in practice the past month.
“I would say I’m ahead of where I usually am at the beginning of the year,” Thompson said. “I jumped right back in pretty easily this year, luckily. We just want to try to hit all of our events at most of the meets. We’re going to make mistakes and mess up, but we hope for as few as possible.”
Sophomore Sami Heathcote finished ninth on the beam and 14th in the all-around at state last season. Senior Kaitlyn Calandro, junior Tova Edwards and sophomores Alayne Davis and Ashley Niebrugge have competed at state in at least one event.
Junior Emma Cooper and sophomore Grace Ellis also could contribute in individual events.
“They’re all going to be a big part of getting the depth of the team back,” Arthur said. “We’ve taken a hit not having Ashley Holliday, so we have some big shoes to fill.”
One person who could fill those shoes if she is able to return from injury is sophomore Adrienne Salemme. Salemme, a veteran club gymnast, competed only in club gymnastics last season, but has been working out with and mentoring some of the Bull Dogs this year.
Arthur said if Salemme is able to compete, it will be later in the season.
“It’s almost like (injured Indianapolis Colts quarterback) Andrew Luck,” Arthur said. “We’re not going to push her any harder. The nice thing about Adrienne is, she’s very involved in the program, even though we don’t anticipate her competing, at least initially.”
The Bull Dogs open the season Jan. 4 at Bloomington North.
Arthur said the team is working a lot of new skills, especially on the vault. He said they may not rely on all all-arounders and will have more specialists this season.
“We’re getting there,” Arthur said. “We’re certainly not game ready. We may not even be where we want to be for the first meet or two. But the girls are progressing.”
The 2018 Columbus North gymnastics schedule:
Jan. 4;at Bloomington North;7 p.m.
Jan. 8;at Columbus East;6:30 p.m.
Jan. 16;Owen Valley;7 p.m.
Jan. 18;at New Palestine;6 p.m.
Jan. 25;Bloomington South;6:30 p.m.
Jan. 30;Seymour;7 p.m.
Feb. 6;at Roncalli;6:30 p.m.
Feb. 10;at Connersville Invitational;11 a.m.
Feb. 13;Conference Indiana;7 p.m.