Columbus North gymnast Claire Thompson walked into the gymnastics state meet her freshman year with a body full of nerves, letting the pressure affect her performance.

She didn’t do as well as she thought she could have, but that big of a stage can be a lot to deal with for any first-year high school athlete.

With a year of high school competition under her belt, Thompson walked back into the state meet with much more poise and handled the moment with confidence. She took home individual championships on the bars, beam and all-around competitions on her way to helping the Bull Dogs win a team title as a sophomore.

Thompson followed that performance with another state title on the beam and a runner-up all-around finish her junior year.

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“My first year was very stressful because I knew I was one of the top gymnasts on our team, and my scores were important as well as everyone else’s,” Thompson said. “I take in a lot of pressure, and honestly, I did not do very good my freshman year (at the state meet), which is fine. I obviously bounced back from it, but I just remember being very nervous my freshman year state meet.”

Thompson still gets jitters before big meets as a senior, but realizing that the pressure is not all on her and knowing she can count on her teammates to do their part has helped significantly calm her nerves. North assistant coach Deshawn Kelley said one of the biggest improvements in Thompson from her freshman year to now is her confidence, which has helped her become more consistent.

Thompson has embraced her team captain role this season and really has been a motivational force to the rest of her teammates. She always is willing to lend a helping hand to her fellow Bull Dogs when she sees one of them struggling with a particular skill, and her vocal presence also is a plus.

“She doesn’t shy away from pushing the girls, motivating them and saying ‘Hey, it’s time to get going. Let’s get moving,’” North co-head coach Bob Arthur said. “She leads basic warmups. She leads conditioning. She’s just a good person to have in the gym.”

This is North’s last season of enjoying Thompson in a Bull Dogs uniform, and Thompson said it is setting up for a bittersweet ending. She started the year on the right track by winning the vault, bars, beam and all-around competition in Thursday’s season-opening win at Bloomington North.

Thompson will be looking to maintain her success at this year’s state meet. She will have a good test in tonight’s matchup against her good friend and defending state bars champion Adi Minor of Columbus East. The Olympians will host North at 6:30 p.m.

“As long as she feels like she’s done her best, whatever shakes out shakes out,” Arthur said. “You can’t ever control the other person, so as long as she does her best, we can’t be upset, and she can’t be upset.”

If you go

What: Columbus East vs. Columbus North gymnastics

When: 6:30 p.m. today

Where: Columbus East High School

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.