Atholton chasing 3rd straight state crown Oakland Mills tops list of challengers Gymnastics Preview

March 26, 1993|By Michael Richman | Michael Richman,Contributing Writer

The monopoly that Atholton has built in Howard County girls gymnastics could be in trouble.

Winners of four straight county titles and back-to-back state championships, the Raiders lost two of their top all-arounders, Meredith Monroe and Lisa Lotkin, to graduation.

With the Raiders not as deep, strong programs such as Oakland Mills and Mount Hebron have better opportunities to contend for the county championship, May 3 at Oakland Mills.

"For a long time we had a monopoly on things, but not this year," Atholton coach Terry Smith said. "We're not quite as strong as last year, but we're still able to pull off a county championship if we do the right things."

In last season's county meet, Atholton (131.15) edged Wilde Lake (125.35) and Oakland Mills (124.9). Mount Hebron (104.75), Howard (95.20), Glenelg (93.60), Centennial (85.20) and Hammond (44.85) finished well back.

"This year will be the most challenging among all the schools," Mount Hebron coach Lisa Michael said. "It's not going to be a standoff with Atholton taking it all. All the schools have talent and all will be very close in team scores."

Oakland Mills coach Bonnie Taylor said, "[Atholton] won't be as strong this year, not unless [Smith] comes up with gymnasts that nobody knows about."

Atholton still can't be taken lightly, however. Despite losing Monroe and Lotkin, the Raiders are armed with the Mennell twins, juniors Shannon and Heather, and senior Michelle Benson. Shannon Mennell finished sixth in the 1992 county meet.

Seniors Erica Lucy and Sarah Grove and junior Anne Marie Ebert are other all-arounders.

Junior Lori Jackson is the primary reason Taylor envisions a top-three finish in the county.

Jackson placed a close second in the county tournament to Wilde Lake's Lisa Lee. With Lee's graduation, Jackson appears to be the heir apparent as the county's best gymnast.

Jackson, who's strongest on balance beam, "doesn't crumble when the pressure's on," Taylor said. "She's extremely consistent and a very good performer."

The junior is a candidate to compete in the National High School Girls Gymnastics Championships in May. The selection is based on her scores this season.

Like Jackson, junior Kelley Callaway competed in the state tournament. Callaway is an all-arounder who excels on uneven bars. Also key to the lineup are senior Kim Fiske (beam/floor exercise) and juniors April Page (beam/floor) and Becca VanAmburg (all-around), who "has the most potential on the team." said Taylor.

Mount Hebron's girls should have their best squad since Michael started coaching in 1987. She's excited that all-arounders Danielle Magnes (junior), the school record holder, Amy Walton (junior) and Berkley Noonam (freshman) will consistently score 8.0 and above in each event.

"We've always had two high scorers, but never a potential third high scorer," Michael said. "So, this year, that's a real plus."

Magnes hyper-extended a knee and missed nearly the entire 1992 season, and Walton, a newcomer, prepped in private gymnastics. Juniors LeNora Thompson (bars/floor) and Missy Shively (beam) and sophomores Jessie Wright (bars) and Cheyenne Wilson (vault/bars) are others among the Vikings' 22 female gymnasts.

Wilde Lake's girls are coming off their second-place county finish with a new coach, Mike Anderson.

The Wildecats lost Lee, but junior Janie Wettstein, who placed fifth in the county (33.05), is back to lead a talented squad. Senior Becky Michaelson (all-around), juniors Keri Saunders (all-around), Jeri Colbert (floor/beam) and Mandy Kirschner (all-around) and freshman Sarah Miller (floor/vault) round out the lineup.

Howard, Glenelg, Centennial and Hammond are hampered by inexperience.

Howard, coached by Leslie Hinds, features three freshman all-arounders with a lot of potential: Kim McNemar, Pam Bradley and Nicole Schimpf.

"We have a really young team, but we look pretty strong," Hinds said.

For Centennial, junior Bridgette Leslie and Terry Hild are returning all-arounders.

Devon Felder, an all-arounder, is one of Hammond's best female gymnasts.

In all, talent is better proportioned among the eight schools, Michael said, because more gymnasts from private clubs are making the transition to high school competition.

"Now, the private gyms are letting the kids out into the high schools," she said. "They're finding there is competition among all the schools."

After coaching at a YMCA for four years, Jill Brooks begins her first season at Glenelg. Her best gymnast is the only male on a 13-gymnast roster, junior Jimmy Voland (floor, vault, high bar).

Unlike the girls, there's no county tournament in boys gymnastics, in which only five schools are represented. Atholton, Howard and Centennial have no male gymnasts, while Oakland Mills and Glenelg each have one.

The county's best boys team of the past five years, according to Michael, is Mount Hebron, which will feature eight gymnasts, including senior Kofi Asei-Wusu (floor), junior Mike Maggio (floor, parallel bars, vault) and freshman Greg Bull (all-around). The Vikings placed third in regionals last season.

Ryan McAlister, a specialist in floor exercises and on parallel bars, is the Scorpions' only male gymnast.

Senior Derris Green and freshman Sekon Walker, both specializing in floor, rings and bars, and freshman Chad Tidgewell (all-around) are the best of Wilde Lake's five male gymnasts.

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