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Western High School senior Lilly Heydenburg warms up prior to gymnastics practice last week.

By Jeff Steers
JTV Sports

(December 4, 2022 9:09 AM) Coming off a season when Western High School had three state gymnastic qualifiers and finished in the top six at regionals, the Panthers have an “awesome squad” according to coach Abbey Gleeson.

The Panthers have 16 gymnasts including one from Hanover-Horton as part of a co-op agreement between the two schools.

“This team is going to be awesome … it is so uplifting,” Coach Gleeson said of the Panthers. 

Two of the gymnasts hoping to lead the Panthers are sophomores Taylor Paquin and Avah Gaston. Both come from PAX Gymnastics in Chelsea and have years of experience in the sport.

Avah Gaston

“I have been doing gymnastics since age three,” Gaston said. “My mother was a gymnast, a coach, and a judge in the sport.

“We started in the Mommy and Me Program.”

Gaston says that the beam is her best event in gymnastics, even though it is tough to stay on the 4-inch apparatus.

“The beam is a very scary event where anything can happen,” Gaston said. “You have to train your brain that you can do anything on the beam.”

The sophomore had a knack for staying on the apparatus and scored above 8 in most of her routines.

Taylor Paquin

Paquin said the floor exercise is her favorite event with scores in the mid-to-high 8s a year ago.

“The floor exercise is hard on your knees and ankles,” Paquin said. 

Both gymnasts are coming from club gymnastics and enjoy the aspect of being on a team.

“This team feels like on big family,” Paquin said. 

Gaston agrees saying gymnastics teaches you about teamwork.

“This sport teaches you teamwork and to be a nice person,” Gaston said. “You make so many good friends in this sport and you get really close.”

Some of the other gymnasts the Panthers will depend on this season include senior Lilly Heydenburg – the team’s MVP from a year ago. Junior Kara Boyer is expected to be strong on the floor exercise and freshman Sophie Robinson is expected to be strong in a number of events.

“Our strength is certainly in our depth,” Coach Gleeson said. 

Western will be challenged right off the block as Jackson Area Gymnastics comes to WHS on Dec. 15 for a meet. 

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