Heading into the 2009-2010 gymnastics season, there were a lot of questions for McLean High School.
The team has welcomed a new coach by the name of Courtney Lesson, who hadn’t coached high school before; and has a number of inexperienced girls working on basic routines.
After a third-place showing out of six teams at Stone Bridge High School earlier this month, it appears that the Highlander program is heading in the right direction.
“The first meet we went into, I wasn’t sure where we’d be, and we ended up getting third as a team,” said Lesson.
“I was very happy. Coming in third, we still have a lot of work that we need to do so that by the end of this season, hopefully we can be up there with some of the top schools.”
Part of the team’s early success has to be attributed to their new coach, who moved to the area recently after attending Western Michigan University, where she had a solid gymnastics career. Though she hasn’t coached at the high school level before, she has club experience, as well as an enthusiasm and a positive outlook.
“I really want to get the girls to just meet their goals, and to have a good strong team would be my ultimate goal,” she said “To build the team throughout the years, to help keep recruiting more girls.”
The Highlanders this season have a small squad, just seven on the listed roster, including two seniors and no juniors.
“We do have a lot of rookies and couple of returning girls,” Lesson said. “I just want them to do their best, work hard, succeed, meet their own goals.
“From what I’ve heard, it’s always been a small group of girls, so I have a couple of cheerleaders and some new girls who really haven’t done gymnastics,” the coach continued.
She added she’s working “with them trying to get the requirements on the routines for each event they’re doing very well in succeeding, especially with nerves.”
Lesson stresses that it is overcoming nerves that is a big challenge for any new gymnast.
“They’re very nervous in trying to get all the requirements, like the series connections, the jump connections, on each routine,” Lesson said. “That’s part of the scoring.”
Senior Megan Sanders-Smith is expected to have a strong year, as well as sophomore Claire Sanders and Abigail Neuberger.
Lesson’s youth is an added dimension in working with the girls.
“I like Courtney,” said sophomore Emily Westby-Gibson, at a Friday night practice last week. “She’s a lot of fun. She’s young.”
This is Westby-Gibson’s first year doing gymnastics, and she practices two or three hours a day, five days a week.
Next up for McLean gymnastics is at Robinson High on Jan. 6, where Lesson hopes to see even more improvement from her young squad.
“Hopefully we’ll be further along with our routines, so the girls will be out there looking stronger,” the coach said.