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It was a tumultuous offseason for the Columbus East gymnasts.
The Olympians lost their top four competitors, including Michelle Wesolowski, who died in an auto accident. The top returning gymnast, junior Jaycie Jaggers, said East is dedicating the season to the fallen teammate.
To honor Wesolowski, the team is wearing new leotards this year with “MW” on the sleeve.
“We’re just trying to get up on our feet since we lost Michelle,” Jaggers said. “We’re dedicating the season to her, and we’re going to try to give it our best.”
Nancy Kirshman announced at last year’s team’s banquet that she was going to retire after 40 years coaching the Olympians but then decided to come back. Wesolowski’s older sister, Katie, has helped with the program while a student at IUPUC the past couple of years and is now helping whenever she is home from Ball State.
“It’s going to be a little tough to get through the year with Michelle not with us,” Kirshman said. “But we’re moving forward each day.”
Along with Jaggers, the top gymnasts could be freshmen Becca Bryan and Seena Griewe. East also returns seniors Samantha Rose, who vaulted in the state meet, and Kaylee Barger and junior Olivia Frownfelter.
“(Jaggers is) doing a good job and has improved on her skill levels,” Kirshman said. “Both Kaylee Barger and Samantha Rose we hope take on some of the leadership role. They know what’s expected.”
Sophomore Kaylee McFall and freshman Conner Day will look to challenge for varsity spots.
“Connor is probably in somewhat beginner role, but Becca and Seena have good experience,” Kirshman said.
“We’re going to sit in the middle of the pack for a while,” she said. “But by the end of the season, we’re going to be where we need to be. There are a couple of areas where we’re a little weak for the fourth or fifth person; but by the end of the year, we’re going to be OK.”
The Olympians won their own regional last season and finished fifth in the state.
“I think we could potentially be pretty good,” Jaggers said. “We have some good talent. Our goal is to get to state again this year.”
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