Severna Park's private stock gone Chesapeake set to move on champs Gymnastics

March 26, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

For several years, Severna Park coach Bonnie Habicht has been surrounded by gymnasts who have honed their skills on club teams, with the Falcons as the primary benefactor.

"She had a neat thing happen where she had a ton of private-team kids all at the same time, which is unusual," said Arundel coach Carol Nutt. "Sometimes, you have one or two, but she had a gang there for a couple of years."

This year is different. Habicht, whose girls won the county championship last spring, said, "We have no one who competed a private club. This is a rebuilding year."

That's true at other schools, as well.

While Annapolis may have its strongest girls team in four years, most coaches agree that Chesapeake has the most talent among both boys and girls.

"Given everything we've seen, it's probably going to be one of the best gymnastics years we've seen in the county in a long time," said Broadneck coach Judy Svec. "It sounds like we've all had the same situations, with [limited use of] the facilities because of the weather, and it looks like we all have a lot of potential this year. And it looks like a lot of people have a lot of youth."

C7 Here's a look at the county's six gymnastics teams.

Annapolis

In the previous two seasons, Annapolis' boys team won the county and state-regional titles. In 1991, it was freshman sensation Peter Lombard who led the way. And after Lombard moved to Florida, coach Neill Russell called upon seniors Dominic Boardley and Jason Hill -- who were injured much of the season -- to provide the points necessary to assure last spring's championships.

Can history repeat itself? Again?

"I don't know what the other teams have," said Russell, who hopes seniors Antoine Thomas and Shawn Taylor, a running back on the football team, emerge this year. Thomas specializes in the floor exercise, and Taylor excels in the vault.

"I have five all-arounders, though. It's the same kids as last year, minus Dominic and Jason," Russell said.

The most polished gymnast, Russell said, is junior Jamie Scott. He should take some of the pressure off Thomas and Taylor.

Other juniors include Alex Smith and Ranard DeLeon.

The captain is senior Ben Finklestein, who, like senior Mark Cochran, scores highest on the pommel horse.

The Panthers' girls will benefit from a healthy Karen Thompson. A senior who has battled injuries the previous two seasons, Thompson won the county all-around championship as a freshman.

Thompson is one of four all-arounders, joining senior Kim Mussog, junior Angela Cheatham and sophomore Sara Johnson.

Cheatham stopped competing internationally two years ago, and one of the county's top newcomers. Mussog and Johnson are particularly strong on the beam.

The captain is senior Suzanne Robbins, a county champion in the vault the previous three years in the "specialist" category.

Annapolis was supposed to open its season yesterday in a tri-meet at Severna Park, but bowed out when Russell determined that his squad hadn't practiced enough because of last week's school closings.

Arundel

Coach Carol Nutt welcomes back two senior boys -- Mike Whigham and Tom Hamblin. "I'd say two-thirds are beginning gymnasts," she said.

"You always lose a lot of kids; that's how it is in any sport. I have a lot of kids who are coming along nicely, but they're just inexperienced. They have a lot of talent."

Another returning male is junior Mike Perry. "Those are basically the three guys I had on the team last year," said Nutt, whose squad placed first in Wednesday's season-opening tri-meet with Broadneck and Chesapeake.

Out of 14 girls, half are new, Nutt said.

Senior Debbie Chute is in her fourth year on the varsity. There are no juniors, and "a ton of sophomores," said Nutt, including returnees Megan Glaze and Erin Kupstas.

Freshmen Karen Newhard and Michelle Gagnier will offer immediate help. Newhard placed first in all-around in Wednesday's home tri-meet with Broadneck and Chesapeake.

"Other than that, we're pretty young and inexperienced," Nutt said. "We should improve as the season goes on.

"It's hard to say where we're strongest. Like everybody else, we lost quite a bit of practice last week. We're behind, which is unusual for gymnastics. Even the kids who have competed before are feeling a little ill-prepared, but it will be OK.

"Usually, you kind of have a feel for what's happening and what's going on, but it's hard to say. There are so many variables. I don't think we're going to be weak. But this team is so young that I'm looking forward to continually improving, and we should be pretty strong by the end of the season. We can do nothing but improve.

H

"It's going to be interesting to watch how they mature."

Broadneck

Broadneck senior Todd Keyser got off to a good start this spring, placing first in the all-around in Wednesday's tri-meet at Arundel. He won the rings, pommel horse and high bar, but the outnumbered Bruins boys finished third.

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