Gymnastics looks to underclassmen for future success


Junior Olivia Jeong was the spark that helped lead the Forest Hill gymnastics team throughout its highly successful season that ended with a 13th place finish in the state championships.

“I think that I have progressed more as a gymnast both score wise and skill wise since last year,” Olivia said. “In my opinion, the whole team had an amazing season as well this year, and we never gave anything but our best.”

Although Olivia may not have been the highest scorer at every meet, her impact on the team was exponential. Not only did she compete in every single meet, but she was one of the only gymnasts to compete in every event during most of the competitions.

With injuries keeping the team from being full strength throughout the season, her health was greatly appreciated among the team. Especially since junior Hannah Walters, who has always been a key part to the team, was out for several meets with a foot injury this season.

“Our season went better than planned in some ways and worse than planned in other ways,” Olivia said. “One reason it was worse was because of all the unexpected injuries that took a toll on our team, but it caused girls to step up and take leadership.”

The team started off its season competing in the Rockford Flip-Flop Invite with only six healthy gymnasts out of the usual eight. During that meet, the team took fifth; however, the girls were able to quickly bounce back the following week at the Kenowa Hills Invite, where they destroyed the Kenowa Hills Knights with a score of 134-72.

Going into the next meet against a powerhouse of a squad, the Rockford Rams, the team struggled; in fact, the Rams went on to be the only team that the Rangers would lose to throughout the entire regular season.

Rockford has always had strong competitors; they had a team twice the size, which always helps when injuries arise, but they are also very consistent,” head coach Karen Grant said. “Competing against them is always fun; a lot of the girls from Forest Hills and Rockford practice together over the summer, which pushes them to do better.

However, the team did not let this loss against Rockford set it back, as the gymnasts went on to defeat Lowell in an extremely close meet and Kenowa Hills in yet another blow-out during their next two meets.

The gymnast who stood out and took charge throughout these two meets was senior Maheen Mulligan. Maheen was a very important aspect in both victories, as she took second in the beam event against Kenowa and had several very high scores, an 8.6 and an 8.4, against Lowell.

“It is hard to think of one specific moment that was my favorite or best moment,” Maheen said, “but I do think that was my best meet; I got my season-high on beam, and it was Senior Night.”

As the season came to a close, the team competed in the conference and Regional competitions. At the conference meet, FH took second out of the four teams, and at Regionals, the gymnasts took third. At Regionals, only the top three teams continue on to States, and the team slipped by with a 0.2 point victory over the fourth-place team. Hannah Walters was the key for the teams’ accomplishment at Regionals, as she placed in the top ten in two out of the four events: the beam in sixth place, and the bars in eighth.

“It was an awesome feeling qualifying for States with a seven-person line up while other teams in the region have ten to twenty girls on their teams,” Olivia said. “I also think that we were all just so glad to be able to practice one more week with each other.”

The team went into the State Meet with confidence, and after two days of competition, the team took thirteenth place. Hannah led the team with a total of 33.525 points, and Olivia followed close behind with 32.850 points.

Maheen had to sit out for the last few meets because of a knee injury and sadly wasn’t able to compete in her final competition as a senior.

Maheen was one of our strongest beam workers this season, so we really took a hit on that event at Regionals and States with her being out,” Grant said. “She really handled her injury with grace and still showed up to support the team, which is always so nice to see.”

FH’s final record came to be three first-place victories, five second-place finishes, and two top-five placements, not to mention qualifying and placing at the State Championships.

As this season finished up, the team lost many influential seniors; however, with the talent of the underclassmen, the team should have no problem bouncing back next season.

“Even with four seniors leaving, the leadership next year will stay really strong,” Maheen said. “Olivia and Hannah will go on to be very good captains and leaders next season.”