Chelsea Stretshberry wasn’t a big fan of the balance beam.
After doing all four events for most of her first two years, Stretshberry gave up the beam last season. Graduation losses have led the Columbus North senior back to the apparatus, and she’s participating in the all-around for the state-bound Bull Dog gymnasts.
“I had a lot of fear with it, but I had all the team’s support and the coaches cheering me on, and I gained confidence from it,” Stretshberry said. “It’s not my favorite event this year, but it’s gotten a lot better, and it’s one of my favorites now.”
In fact, Stretshberry has the highest score of any North gymnast on the beam this season, a 9.25. She’s also scored a team-best 9.575 on the floor, a 9.2 on the vault, an 8.6 on the bars and has a high all-around of 35.825.
“Really, she has a couple of events that she absolutely loves, and early on, when we had a gazillion girls, she was able to focus on the events she loves,” North coach Sandy Freshour said. “Now, as a senior captain on a small team, she also has to do events that she’s not passionate about, and she does them really well. She’s a lot more talented (on the bars and beam) than she gives herself credit for, but it’s a little more effort on her part because she didn’t really like those events.
“She’s a veteran competitor,” she added. “She’s just picking up a big workload this year as a team captain and leader.”
Stretshberry, who says floor is her favorite event, competed at state only in that event her first two years and did floor and vault in last year’s state meet. Saturday at Ball State’s Worthen Arena, she’ll compete in the all-around.
“I really like it,” Stretshberry said. “This year, I just had to step up because we lost a lot of girls. But I actually gained a lot of confidence from it, and I like that I’m helping the team out with everything.”
In Friday’s Columbus East Regional, Stretshberry led the Bull Dogs with a sixth-place all-around finish with a 35.125. She hopes to improve on that score Saturday.
“I think we have the potential to put together a really high all-around score,” Freshour said. “It comes down to hitting four routines. You usually get two or three, and getting four is another story. That just takes a little talent and a little luck.”
Tenth-ranked North is making its sixth consecutive trip to the state finals. The Bull Dogs have finished in the top four each of the past five years.
“We have a lot of girls that are upperclassmen that have never competed at state, so I feel like since I’ve competed, I can kind of get them ready for that experience, and they won’t have as big of a shock,” Stretshberry said.
Stretshberry began competing in gymnastics at the age of 5. She gave up the sport until she was 12, but returned when she got into high school.
“Chelsea is a really hard worker,” junior teammate Chelsea Wieland said. “I look up to her a lot. It takes a lot to get back into gymnastics after you quit, so doing it for four years and getting to where she is now, she’s really good, and I just admire her for that.”
College gymnastics isn’t in the plans for Stretshberry, so Saturday’s state meet will be her swan song in the sport.
“This is it,” Stretshberry said. “This is my last week. It’s weird. I’ve been doing this since I was 5 years old, so it’s going to be different and weird. I feel like there for awhile, I’m not going to know what to do. It’s definitely going to be sad, but it will be OK. I’m just going to give it my all.”