Individual gymnasts competing within team state tournament
Imagine how North Side gymnast Zoe Drummond must have felt at the Becky Carter Classic on Jan. 20. Her only teammate, freshman Jensen Jones had been carried out earlier after fracturing her foot during warm-ups, meaning the sophomore Drummond had to get through the biggest meet of her life all by herself.
Well, almost. Because North Side doesn’t have a gymnastics team anymore, Drummand and Jones train with Northrop’s team.
“It’s kind of scary because sometimes I’m dead last in the whole meet and everybody is watching me,” Drummond said. “The Northrop girls really pick me up as part of their team.”
Individuals training with another school’s team is something mostly unique to high school gymnastics. Drummond and Jones represent North Side but train with Northrop. Stephanie Lee and Isabelle Scofield attend Bishop Luers but train with Bishop Dwenger’s team. South Side’s Cheyenne Crousore, Reagan Gustin, and Ashana Davis train with Wayne’s team under the direction of Carrie Curry and Shannon Deprey. Last season, Bellmont’s Mia Hankinson also competed in gymnastics before deciding to become a cheerleader this year.
Every season there are a handful of gymnasts who go it alone, essentially joining with another team for practice and to compete on its schedule. It’s something that works particularly well for gymnastics where there’s no defense and where everyone is happy if someone else does well. They are all friends anyway.
Part of the individuals’ dedication is because they’ve all started in the sport at a very young age. Drummond has been a gymnast for eight years, starting at Fort Wayne Turners under Northrop coach Kim Coak.
“I’ve known Zoe for a long time and I really love her and want her to do her best anyway,” Coak said. “I think it helps that I have known her as long as I have and she trusts me. The girls have really adopted her so it feels like she’s part of us. It’s when we got to the big meets that we realize she’s not really part of us.”
The individuals do have their own coaches, which are usually parents or teachers who are essentially team sponsors. Bev Jesch coaches the North Side girls and Kelli Lee, Stephanie’s mom, coaches Bishop Luers, though she is quick to admit she not a gymnastics expert.
“I’ve had so much fun, and I have learned a lot about gymnastics,” Lee said. “This sport is awesome because all of the gymnasts no matter where they are from support each other. Not every sport does that so I love it. It’s a lot of extra work, but that’s OK because I really enjoy it. I think Stephanie and Isabelle have had fun.”
They have, though Scofield is not out for the season with a back injury.
“Dwenger is like our team, but we are also here for each other,” Stephanie Lee said.
A funny thing was some of their friends at school had no idea Bishop Luers even offered gymnastics. In fact, before they decided to join Dwenger’s team, Lee and Scofield didn’t even know much about each other.
“I knew of Steph, but we didn’t talk that much at school, but we came together,” Scofield said. “We have each other, but we all feel like one big team, and we all cheer each other on.”
They’ve also learned to become part of the huge Bishop Dwenger gymnastics family.
“They are bubbly and it’s nice to be able to have the combo teams,” Bishop Dwenger coach Rose Nix said. “I think gymnastics is a unique sport like that because all the other girls know each other.”
And the other teams are really making an effort to build and support the sport that they all love. Gymnastics has the smallest number of teams of any IHSAA-sponsored sport and every gymnast game make a difference.
“Anybody that does have another team go with them does it because they love the sport and want everybody who has ever dreamed of being a gymnast to have the chance to do that, whether they are elite or not,” Coak said. “They all deserve that chance.”
But still, it has to be a little odd to be the one person competing sometimes, no matter how many good intentions your other “teammates” may have.
“If you want to do it, just do it because you can start something,” Scofield said. “You are going for yourself, but you also have your team cheering for you. It’s worth it.”