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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2009

Sidelines: All-around talent

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Napoleon junior Kendall Homan practices on the balance beam. Homan is a two-time defending all-around champion at the district and finished 15th at state last year. Napoleon junior Kendall Homan practices on the balance beam. Homan is a two-time defending all-around champion at the district and finished 15th at state last year.
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NAPOLEON - Napoleon junior Kendall Homan possesses the perfect balance of grace, power, determination, competitiveness and courage to be a champion gymnast.

Homan's athleticism has enabled her to win two consecutive district championships. She captured the all-around title as a freshman and sophomore. Homan will be seeking a three-peat on Saturday when the Division I district is held for the first time at the SeaGate Convention Centre.

"It's all about perfecting everything you do - finishing things and making them look pretty," Homan said. "I've always had to work really hard at it. I want to keep my focus and continue to improve."

Homan took 15th in all-around at the state meet last winter after finishing 12th as a freshman in 2007. Her highest finish in an individual event was ninth in the floor exercise as a freshman. Homan has never placed lower than 23rd in any event at state.

Kendall Homan prepares for parallel bars. She is also state track qualifier and an all-league soccer player. Kendall Homan prepares for parallel bars. She is also state track qualifier and an all-league soccer player.
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Napoleon coach Celeste Belding, who has been at the helm of the Wildcats program for 14 seasons, said Homan is the most competitive gymnast she has mentored.

"Kendall is one of those determined athletes," Belding said. "She has the full package as a gymnast. She has the grace, the power and she has the good tumbling and elegant dance.

"Her other coaches say, 'She is magic or tragic,'•" Belding said. "She only knows one way to go - full speed. She's learned how to control her power."

It was all magic for Homan at the district meet last year, winning three of the four individual events. She took first in the vault with a score of 9.075, the uneven parallel bars (9.150) and the floor exercise (9.35). She won the all-around with a score of 36.425.

"It's exciting knowing all that I've accomplished already," Homan said. "I just want to be the district champ again. I feel if I don't, I'm downgrading what I've done."

Perrysburg is the defending district champion. Napoleon took second last year, and 21 teams will compete this year.

"This is the first time it's at SeaGate Centre and I'm really excited," Homan said. "I always feel so good at big meets when there is more pressure. I seem to do better. I perform better in front of a lot of people."

The top two teams and top five individuals will advance to the state meet March 6-7 at Hilliard Darby in suburban Columbus.

Belding said she believes the team title will come down to Napoleon, Patrick Henry, Findlay or Perrysburg.

"This is a very good group of all-around competitors," Belding said. "It will be hard for Kendall to win three years in a row."

Homan credited longtime coach Amy Nyman, who has instructed her at New Heights Athletics in Wauseon since age 3. "She's like my second mom," Homan said.

She said Nyman has helped make the floor exercise her strongest event.

"I love making up my own routines. I love tumbling," she said.

She also enjoys the beam and vault, but has always been wary of the parallel bars.

"I've been scared to death of them since I first touched them," Homan said. "I don't like swinging on them."

Belding said Homan once broke her elbow while performing on the vault.

"Gymnastics is a very physically demanding sport," Belding said. "You have to surmount fears of getting hurt and the possibility of major pain."

Homan also landed awkwardly on her neck a few years ago while also competition in the vault.

"She missed [the springboard] with her hands and she went for it anyway and landed on her neck," Belding said. "But she went right out and did it again."

Homan's abilities extend beyond gymnastics. Last spring at the Division II state track meet, Homan finished fifth in the 100 meters and fourth in the long jump. She also was named All-Greater Buckeye Conference first team in soccer last fall.

Belding said she believes Homan would increase her chances of being among the top six at the state meet and earn All-Ohio honors if she focused solely on gymnastics.

"I asked her why she played soccer and she said, 'Soccer is a team sport in a way that gymnastics and track are not,'•" Belding said. "Her goal is the team first. She would trade any individual accolade for a team title."

Homan said she hopes to land a college scholarship, but her immediate goal is to reach state with her teammates senior Jessica DeTray, junior Taylor Dunbar and freshman Riley Dunbar. Freshman Bethany Wolf is sidelined with an injury.

Napoleon posted its highest finish in school history at state when it took seventh as a team in 2007 when Homan was a freshman.

"When I got into high school, I thought I might only have four years left, so I'll do the best I can," Homan said. "Next year I'll upgrade my tumbling and all my routines. I've already had a lot of fun."

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-304-4760.



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