There s no chance Springfield will finish among the top teams at Saturday s district gymnastics meet at Van Buren High School.
Sophomore Ashley Grant will do everything she can to help the Blue Devil team. But that s the problem: Grant is the only member of Springfield s team.
Grant is the top returning local place-winner in the all-around competition at last year s state meet, where she also competed in the floor exercise and uneven parallel bars. She was 30th in the all-around among 36 competitors.
But that was last year, when she had teammates with whom to share her trials, tribulations and triumphs. Early this year several other Springfield girls came out for the team but soon left, leaving Grant by herself.
At first I didn t like [being alone], and I wasn t sure I wanted to stick to [gymnastics], Grant admitted. I love gymnastics, but it was hard. Now I m used to [being alone], and I love it now.
Kristian Ilstrup, Grant s coach, said there are obvious positives to being a one-girl team.
When it s just me and her at practice, she gets quite a bit done, Ilstrup said. She s pretty good anyway, so she can pick up things pretty quickly. When we come to practice, we try to hit all four events. And if we need to put in a new skill, or clean up some of her routines, we try to practice that skill a little more.
I can watch her all the time, check her to make sure her routines are all right. We don t have any drag time.
But there are negatives to the arrangement as well. For example, both coach and athlete agreed that while it s a good thing that Ilstrup can watch Grant all the time, it s a bad thing, too.
The down-side to having only her on the team is that she really doesn t have a team to be a part of, Ilstrup said. And when it s only me and her at practice, she gets tired quicker. And she might get a little more annoyed at me, because I don t have anything else to do in practice except watch her.
If she does something wrong, I m on top of her right away.
Grant has continued her success from last season. Shefinished second with a score of 35.1 to Perrysburg s Macy Nordhaus (35.625) in the all-around competition at the Northern Lakes League meet.
Grant won the vault (9.0) and was runner-up on the bars and beam.
While Grant went to state last season on the bars and floor exercise, she said she doesn t have a favorite.
I like the bars because you can swing around just go out there and have some fun, she said. I like the floor because I think I m a powerful tumbler.
[My biggest concern] is the beam. It s hard, and you have to keep your balance. The goal is just to stay tight up there.
And what if Grant is the only member of Springfield s team next season?
It won t be a bad thing, Grant said. I think it s better now you get so much more practice time, and much more attention from the coach. Not that I ll hate it if there s someone else [on the team] next year, but it s been a pretty good experience. But hopefully there will be other people who can come share this experience with me.
Grant and the rest of the district competitors will be chasing berths in the state meet, which will be held March 3-4 at Hilliard Darby High School in suburban Columbus.
The top two teams from the district will advance to the state meet, as will the top seven individuals in each event as well as the all-around competition.
Some of the other top local competitors include several gymnasts looking to make return trips to the state meet. One of those is Nordhaus, who advanced to the state meet in the balance beam, parallel bars, floor exercise and all-around a year ago.
Dana Smith of Patrick Henry looks to return to the state meet after competing in the all-around as well as the beam and bars last season. Whitmer s Courtney Siebenaller competed in the vault a year ago.
Contact John Wagner at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.