After a couple of years away from the Miami Trace gymnastics team, Susan Holloway returned to a program that she has guided for 20 years.
“I kind of took a little sabbatical for two years,” said Holloway, who is also the proprietor of Tric’s Gymnastic Academy in Washington Court House. “I had retired from teaching and wanted to take a break.”
Last season, Holloway returned to a young, but extremely talented squad of young ladies.
“I knew there were quite a few girls here at the club gymnastics that were going to be at the high school as freshmen,” she said. “So I came back to the team and had a nucleus of four freshmen that were talented and had years of experience.”
This talented nucleus of freshmen (now sophomores) consists of Victoria Waits, Devan Thomas, Abby Arledge and Grace Rolfe.
“They had a tremendous season last year as freshmen,” said Holloway. “These girls had competed at the club but had not been at the high school level or had experienced the kind of competition for high school. There are junior high programs….we just don’t have one locally. Years ago, I attempted to establish one and it existed for two years. There’s no freshmen team, no reserve team, it’s just varsity. So it was remarkable what these freshmen were able to accomplish last year.”
Lack of recognition for the gymnastic program has been an ongoing frustration for Holloway, she said.
“There just aren’t gymnastics programs in other local schools,” she said. “Whether it was the old SCOL (which dissolved last year) or now in the Frontier (Athletic Conference), there is not a gymnastic program other than ours. Therefore, there is not the reward of all-league or recognition like that. Even with the banners in the school, there are no banners for gymnastics. When you go in for a competition and let’s say it’s basketball or volleyball, and as a spectator you’re looking up at the banners. You’re intrigued by what that school has to offer. Miami Trace has had a gymnastics program for 22 years now, but very few people know it. There’s no banner at all because we’re not recognized through the league. That’s my frustration.”
To help compensate for the lack of recognition, Holloway offers incentives and personal rewards to her team.
“I set up personal rewards and I challenge them for personal bests,” she said. “It’s much like a track meet where you are challenged to beat your personal bests. I try to set up incentives for our kids to keep them motivated and keep them climbing…the self-initiative to keep pushing forward.”
Challenging personal bests and competing at a high level is a given for this group of girls. The high score for the Miami Trace gymnastics program in its 22 years of existence was 124.7, according to Holloway. In last year’s very first meet, the team scored a 119.625 as freshmen. At the southwest invitational, the team earned a 123.9 score.
“After last year’s success and now coming into this year, we have very high expectations,” Holloway said. “Along with the four we are returning, we’re adding to the mix Gracie Green, Maddie Southward as sophomores and both girls have years of experience in club here at the gym. So they’ll fit in nicely with the group. We’re also adding a freshman, Debbie Abare. Everyone one of these girls have been in club gymnastics for years. Our level of talent is great and I’m really looking forward to an exciting season.”
Holloway went through her roster and highlighted the abilities each competitor possesses and what event they should excel in.
“The all-around gymnasts I’m looking forward to this year are Abby (Arledge), Devan (Thomas) and Grace (Rolfe). I’m also looking forward to Debbie (Abare) as a freshman in the all-around competition. New to the team this year is Maddie (Southward), a sophomore, and she’s very powerful, very muscular, and I believe she can help us out on vault and on floor exercise. Gracie (Green) is coming back from being involved with other sports. She has come to a lot of open gyms and is working very hard to improve on her skills. I’m excited about her floor routine and I believe she can help us out on balance beam. Victoria (Waits) is another powerful athlete and is very clean and poised. Balance beam and probably floor exercise will be her forte.”
Also competing with this year’s Panther squad is an “independent” from Greeneview High School, Lizzy Valentine.
“My husband, Mark, and I have always been able to offer the high school competition to any child who might be attending this club,” said Holloway. “So the independent gymnast, they compete right along with us, they participate in team bonding with us, and they are part of our team but they compete for their school. Lizzy is a freshman this year and she’s been in gymnastics for 10 years. There’s lots and lots of ability there.”
Holloway said she wanted to give special recognition to her assistant coach, Chasity Thomas, for her invaluable contributions to the program.
Reach Ryan Carter at 740-313-0352 or on Twitter @rywica