Clay gymnasts chasing elusive second TRAC title

J. Patrick Eaken

After the graduation of state qualifier and Three Rivers Athletic Conference Gymnast of the Year Madisen Gladieux, Clay gymnastics coach Faye Smith has three letter winners returning.

There are no seniors, three juniors, two sophomores and a freshman leading this year’s team, which bodes well for this year and next year, too. After the Lucas County Health Department suspended sports, the gymnasts are getting back to action this week.

Smith’s top all-around athletes include returning sophomore letter winner Grace Mabry and freshman Laney Newman. Just because they are young does not mean Mabry and Newman are inexperienced.

“Both have a lot of experience in competitive gymnastics and compete year around,” Smith said. “Gracie Mabry has been working hard during the time between last summer and this summer, and I think you can see the improvement in her skills and routines. I am excited to see how she does this season.

“Laney Newman is a first-year high school gymnast for Clay but she has lots of experience in gymnastics and competes for another gym during the offseason. I think this gives her some good preparation for the requirements that she will need to complete for the high school gymnastics competitions. She also works hard at practice and strives to be the best she can be.” 

There are other athletes who excel at certain individual events.

“Chloe Maville (sophomore) has strong consistent vaults that should place her in the top of our team,” Smith said. “I expect Willow Saje (junior) to be one of our top athletes on beam because she is confident on the beam and completes each skill with poise and grace.  I expect Laney Newman to be top on bars because she has a lot of strong skills and is consistent in completing them in her routines.”

Smith says she expects all of her athletes to perform well in floor exercises. 

“I think all of our gymnasts will do well on floor,” Smith said. “Each has strength of skills and brings different backgrounds and experiences such as dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading that will make them competitive in high school gymnastics.” 

Smith has been coaching gymnastics at Clay since 2014 and at Anthony Wayne since 2011, and she remains at both schools, where she has had athletes win league and district championships.

Last year the Eagles finished a close second in the league behind Notre Dame, 127.675-117.375. Whitmer (112.925) was third, followed by Findlay (83.225) and St. Ursula (77.05). All-time, Findlay has five TRAC titles, Notre Dame three titles and Clay one.

Can Clay do well enough to win its second TRAC championship this year?

“I am hoping to see our team finish in the upper half of the league. We have six strong gymnasts this year and I think that we will just continue to grow as the season progresses,” Smith said.

Bolstering the lineup are junior Bree Schenkel and sophomore Mckenzie Coger, giving Smith hope that this team could fare well in the conference.

“I think the team is strong on floor and vault. I also think we have a great team captain this year (Mabry) who is really pushing all of the girls to try their best and work hard at each and every practice,” Smith said. 

“I think our weakness this year is going to be bars. It is a tough event, especially for those gymnasts who don’t practice all year around, and with the break in the season, we have less time to prepare than in past years for this event.” 




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