Jackson, Taylor a winning combination Led Oakland Mills to new heights All-Howard County gymnastics

June 07, 1993|By Michael Richman | Michael Richman,Contributing Writer

Oakland Mills gymnastics coach Bonnie Taylor and her top performer, Lori Jackson, were perfect for each other.

Jackson maintained a hectic schedule in her senior year. An excellent student, she was president of her class and busy in club gymnastics, to name a few pressing endeavors.

Taylor reacted to Jackson's outside interests by easing her required practice time, partially paving the road toward the gymnast's Howard County all-around title.

Jackson's No. 1 score, a then career-high 37.0, was her payback to Taylor. The tally helped Oakland Mills win the county championship, Taylor's first in six seasons of coaching.

For their efforts, Taylor and Jackson have been selected as The Baltimore Sun's Howard County Gymnastics Coach of the Year and Gymnast of the Year, respectively.

Taylor called 1993 her most satisfying season.

"After working a program at Oakland Mills for six years, working so hard and coming so close, and seeing other Oakland Mills coaches bring back titles, it's something I really wanted," Taylor said. "It put Oakland Mills gymnastics on the map.

"It was the first time for the school and now the kids are constantly reminded they are champions. It's nice to be recognized like this and put in the trophy case."

L Jackson lauded Taylor's effort to work around her itinerary.

"Miss Taylor is an awesome person, she worked so well with me," Jackson said. "She deserved the county title more than anyone. She worked well with the team."

When the season started, Taylor knew the Scorpions had the talent to take the county title if some critical

variables to fall into place, such as Jackson's sore right foot not being a factor.

Without Jackson in the first meet -- her right foot was too sore -- Oakland Mills lost to Atholton, 128.1-113.5. Jackson returned and Oakland Mills won five straight meets, beating Wilde Lake, Hammond, Mount Hebron, Glenelg and North Harford. The Scorpions lost to Howard in the regular-season finale.

"We had some good performances and the kids would constantly rally as one gymnast would finish with a good routine," Taylor said.

On May 3, Oakland Mills played host to the county meet. Jackson and junior Kelley Callaway were at their peak before an enthusiastic home crowd.

The Scorpions, bolstered by Jackson's and Callaway's first- and second-place all-around finishes, toppled four-time defending champion Atholton, 131.35-130.50. The 131.35 score, Oakland Mills' highest in team history, beat a Raiders squad that hadn't lost a county meet in five years.

Besides Jackson and Callaway, who also set a personal record in the county meet, Taylor received consistency from senior Kim Fiske, juniors April Page and Becca VanAmberg, and sophomore Jenny Saffle.

Of the county championship, Taylor said: "It was the first time April was healthy and Becca was back and Lori was strong. When it was Lori's turn on floor, the entire

gymnasium was struck by her routine."

With the meet up for grabs, Jackson's 9.55 on floor exercise -- the evening's final routine -- helped beat Atholton. Her innovative maneuvers, a front-through to full and a full-twisting back handspring, electrified the fans.

Jackson had placed second two straight years in the county championship. When the season started, she set a goal of breaking 36.0, but scoring a 37.0 "shocked" her.

"It's incredible, I just did what I could do," Jackson said. "I tried not to feel the pressure and I tried not to think how much I wanted to beat Atholton."

With what Taylor called nearly flawless routines, Jackson earned the top all-around score in all four of her meets. She was immaculate in the county championship, sweeping each individual event.

"I didn't like that people put pressure on me at the beginning of the season," Jackson said. "I figured if I was going to do it, I would do it. I tried to avoid, 'Oh, this is my year, this is my year.' "

In the state meet on May 12, Jackson bettered her county mark with another personal best (37.15). She tied Arundel's Karen Newhard for second place and finished second on floor (9.45), uneven bars (9.1) and balance beam (9.15).

In addition to her polished skills, Jackson's knack for team leadership and support will be sorely missed. She has committed to compete for James Madison University next season.

Taylor's and Jackson's achievements came just as county officials have decided to drop gymnastics and golf because of school budget cuts and increased liability risks.

Jackson said she was "furious," because gymnastics is a the only sport in the county in which girls star over boys.

"I'm more concerned about the equality for men and women," she said.

"This is the only sport that women exceed the men. Not to mention that gymnastics is a sport that most people devote their entire lives to. It's totally unfair."

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