Four area gymnasts return with state experience this season in Richmond’s Chasity Wampler and Hagerstown’s Maddie Davis, Kaci Plankenhorn and Natalie Williamson.
Over in Cambridge City, Lincoln returns four seniors that have head coach Jessica Phillips with high expectations of her own.
Justine Cobalenz-Boggs takes over for the Red Devil gymnastics team that almost wasn’t.
Wampler qualified for state last year and is the only returning gymnast for the Red Devils.
According to Cobalenz-Boggs, Wampler helped recruit other girls to save the gymnastics program and brought out a total of six girls, including Wampler.
Juniors Kiley Thomas, Brooke Day and Alexis Sparks join Wampler, alond with freshmen Alegra Cruse and Amanda Rippenger.
“They’ve all learned quite a bit, but they still have some stuff to learn,” Cobalenz-Boggs said. “I’m just ready to kind of have them get their first experience so they know what else to work on.”
The Red Devils host Hagerstown, a state qualifying-team two seasons ago, on Jan. 14.
Cobalenz-Boggs takes over for her former mentor, Ruth Balthis, who stepped down prior to the season.
A National Trail graduate from New Paris, Cobalenz-Boggs competed for Balthis and has been coaching for the USA Gymnastics team for the last seven years.
Wampler finished 15th on bars at last season’s state meet.
“I think she’s improved quite a bit and she’s worked really hard,” Cobalenz-Boggs said. “If she can stay healthy, injury free, I think she can have a great season.”
The Hagerstown gymnastics team has become quite familiar with the state tournament in the last few years.
Head coach Andra Solis hopes that experience pays off this year.
Junior Davis is coming off a 26th place finish in bars at last March’s competition, while junior Williamson was part of the team that made it to state two years ago, as was Plankenhorn, a senior who returns after taking last year off.
The Tigers also have five straight sectional titles to their credit.
“Ultimately we want to defend our sectional title, it would be wonderful to make it to state as a team. That’s a huge goal,” Solis said.
The Tigers also return sophomores Jess Denhart and Maci Bush and welcome Karli Plankenhorn, a sophomore who is the younger sister of Kaci Plankenhorn, and freshman Bailey Davis, younger sister of Maddie Davis.
“We have a lot of talent but being able to clean up and get our routine ready, that takes some time,” Solis said.
The Tigers start the season Saturday at the Valparaiso Invitational, home of the state runners-up from a year ago and state champions the year before.
“Until we get to regionals they’re the highest level team we’ll see,” Solis said. “We started going up there three years ago because we needed to get higher level competition to get ready for the state tournament.”
Head coach Phillips is excited for her senior-loaded Golden Eagle crew.
Two-time regional qualifier Michelle Seidner highlights four seniors on Phillips’ roster, along with Kayli Burke, Shelby Bertsch and Cejay Robinson.
“They know what to expect coming into the year and that makes things a lot easier,” Phillips said. “They’re really coming together as a team, they know each other, they know what to help each other on, where they need to step up.”
Rounding out the Golden Eagle roster are juniors Jessica Jennings, Sky Harris and sophomores Clarissa Ramsey, Jade Brown and Sara Maley.
Seidner finished 17th in bars at last year’s regional and 22nd in the vault.
“I know her goals are she would like to get to regionals on all-around,” Phillips said. “She’s been working on some new moves on bars. … She’d love to go to state on bars too.”
The Golden Eagles will kick off their season at home today against Muncie South.