For the Jay County gymnastics team, freshman Lizzy Schoenlein was the voice of optimism. As her teammates worried about getting out of sectionals and advancing to regionals, Schoenlein was talking about going to state.
As teammate Malarie Houck recounts the story, she remembers telling her teammate to be realistic. Houck emphasized that she wasn’t trying to be negative, just realistic.
While Jay County had qualified individuals for the state gymnastics meet in the past, one as recently as last year, the Patriots had never gone as a team.
But Schoenlein’s vision has come to fruition. For the first time in school history, Jay County will compete at the state meet as a full team at 1 p.m. today at Worthen Arena. New Castle’s Kierstyn Cochran has qualified on vault, the only other East Central Indiana competitor.
As the Patriots prepared for the meet on Monday, Houck was forced to concede that her teammate was being realistic after all, even if Houck didn’t realize it at the time.
“She’s always cheering up the team, and saying ‘Yeah, we can do it.’ Even if we think we can’t,” Houck said.
Schoenlein has been instrumental in leading the Patriots to their uncharted accomplishment. She has been their top all-around gymnast this postseason, producing a 35.050 all-around score at sectionals and a 35.075 mark at regionals.
In addition to her on-mat accomplishments, Schoenlein has also provided an easygoing, confident demeanor that teammates have found helpful as well.
She is often compared to Katie Snyder, a senior on last year’s team who qualified for state as an all-arounder. While she has provided team-leading all-around scores like Snyder, teammate Tasya Smith said her demeanor also seems to match what Snyder brought to a meet.
“I’m more of the uptight person,” Smith said. “So I get mad when I don’t do well. She’s nice to have there for support when I do get frustrated. She’s just like Katie. Katie calmed me down.”
Schoenlein participated in gymnastics when she was young, but stopped in fifth grade. She elected to resume the sport as a freshman, a move that was anticipated by coaches and teammates eager to find another all-arounder to replace Snyder.
While it was expected Schoenlein would be able to help the team, her absence left some question marks. She said she expected to be on varsity, to do “OK,” and help her team get past sectionals. She knew the gymnasts on the team and thought it would be fun to at least try the sport for her freshman year.
She said she has enjoyed this season, and has exceeded her own expectations.
“It’s been a blast with all these girls,” she said. “We’ve gone this far, and we’re just going to keep going this week and finish strong.”
As Schoenlein’s freshman season gets ready to end today, she has plans for the offseason. She said she is considering picking up a more difficult vault routine, one that would have a higher starting value and give her the potential to post higher scores in that event.
But true to her nature, Schoenlein is not planning to spend all summer in the gym. She will spend some time getting involved with 4-H, and said she doesn’t plan to spend the summer obsessing over her winter sport. She thinks her easygoing approach works of her.
“You get used to everything then, easier,” she said. “You’re not so stressed about everything.”