Successful Routine: Dragons expect another strong season in 2022

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New Palestine’s Alyse Rickey competes in the bars during the IHSAA Gymnastics Sectionals at Connersville on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

NEW PALESTINE — Expectations are similar as in past years for the New Palestine High School gymnastics team.

The Dragons have competed in 11 of the last 12 regional competitions.

Also similar, unfortunately, are the nagging injuries that sometimes go with a sport as stressful and demanding on the body.

“I could name every girl and there is an injury,” veteran New Palestine gymnastics coach Deb Bruns said. “It’s nothing new, just chronic stuff. When you get a little older, things get harder to do.”

Knees, backs, heels, feet, the Dragons have a little bit of everything.

Bruns said they are adjusting in practice and getting ready for the regular season, which begins Thursday with a meet at Shelbyville that includes Waldron and Lutheran.

The opening part of the season is a busy one for the county’s lone tumbling team. On Saturday, they will compete in the Viking Invitational in Valparaiso, an event that includes some of the state’s top teams. Initially scheduled as the season opener tonight, the team is competing, along with New Castle, at Connersville now on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

The first home meet (all home meets are at New Palestine Elementary School) is Jan. 20 against another strong squad in Columbus North.

“I think we’re going to have a very competitive season,” Bruns said. “We should do really well. The kids are all looking pretty good. There’s just the chronic issues that are going to hurt us a little bit. Hopefully, we can keep them healthy the next few months, keep them away from COVID and we should be good.”

Bruns has a talented squad, only losing Emma Poag and Addie Halter, who missed her final season due to injury, to graduation.

Kennedy Garrett returns for her senior campaign and is one of only two seniors on the 10-member team.

Garrett is hopeful to get to the state meet in her final season. She’s come so close in each of her previous three.

In each of her high school seasons she has finished seventh in an event at the regional round, one step from the state finals. Unfortunately, only the top six advance.

As a junior, she was seventh on floor exercise. She scored a 9.225, and missed sixth place by just .025. She was seventh on beam in 2020, also .025 away from sixth. As a frosh, she was seventh in the all-around and only .4 away from advancing.

Bruns compares Garrett’s gymnastics journey to recent grad Grace Shanahan, who had a similar Dragon career. Shanahan was able to get to the state meet as a senior in 2020.

“That’s her goal,” Bruns said of Garrett. “I think she has double-downed on getting there this year and is working really hard.”

Garrett, like the others, is dealing with an injury (Achilles’ heel). She suffered it during track and field season.

“I think Kennedy will be fine,” Bruns said. “We’ve adjusted some things with her for her heel. She’s not had a significant injury before so it’s new for her.”

The other senior, Alyse Rickey, another four-year varsity performer, has had a back issue that has slowed her, but Bruns believes the veteran will be a contributor during her final high school season.

“She’s always been in the top three or four. Her back has slowed her from doing as much as Kennedy, but she’ll be competing on floor for us this year,” Bruns said. “I told her she’s a senior and never competing again (after this year). She’s earned that position. She can do the skills, it’s a matter of if she’s hurting a lot, then I’ll pull her out.”

Emily Hunter, Addyson Kendall and Addi Bird are three juniors on the squad. Hunter and Kendall were part of last year’s regional roster. Kendall, like Garrett, was one spot away from qualifying for state.

She placed seventh on beam at the regional.

“Addy Kendall should do very well this year,” Bruns said, noting the junior being stronger, healthier and having a good work ethic.

The Dragons roster has a strong contingent of young gymnasts.

JJ Fee and Chiara Polo are two very talented freshman.

Fee comes in as a Level 10 gymnast on the club scene. It’s the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

Unfortunately for Fee and the Dragons, the young standout is expected to be slowed this season due to a back issue.

Bruns said she isn’t sure how much Fee will be able to perform this season.

“I’m not going to push a kid in pain. If your back is hurting, everything is hurting,” the coach said. “She’s very, very talented and would definitely be in the running for a state all-around championship. She really is that good.

“The way things are right now, I am just praying she can make it to the sectional. Let’s start slow and build and hope we can get to that point. What you do in January isn’t important it’s what you do at the end of February.”

Polo comes in with some club competition experience as a frosh and is another solid addition to the lineup.

A trio of sophomores are looking to get in the mix.

Rebecca Johnson had a lot of injury-related setbacks as a freshman. Bruns said she is healthier this season and could make a big difference.

“She should be more of a standout this year,” Bruns said. “Last year, she did not get to compete much with back issues and foot and ankle problems. This year, she is healthy and that definitely makes a big difference for us.”

Maliah Ringham and Blakelie Brubeck are two other sophs adding to the Dragons depth.

Bruns expects another strong season, but realizes the competition will be tough.

In just dual meets, the Dragons will face three teams with state champions, including Franklin Central’s Austyn Dykes, last year’s all-around state champion; Columbus North’s Emily Moore, the 2021 winner on beam and Richmond’s Elizabeth Ruger, the 2020 champion on all-around and floor exercise.

“I think we will be right up there dual-wise,” Bruns said. “In those meets, we generally end up with a pretty high win-loss record. The sectional, we should be in the top two or three in that. A sectional win may depend on how healthy we are with JJ, and Kennedy and Addy Kendall. It will be interesting to see how it goes.”

2022 New Palestine Gymnastics Schedule

Date;Opponent;Time

Jan. 13;at Shelbyville/Waldron/Lutheran;6 p.m.

Jan. 15;at Viking (Valparaiso) Invitational;12 p.m.

Jan. 18;at Connersville/New Castle;6:30 p.m.

Jan. 20;vs. Columbus North;6:30 p.m.

Jan. 25;at Morristown/Scecina/Lutheran;6 p.m.

Jan. 27;vs. Roncalli;6 p.m.

Feb. 1;at Noblesville/Lapel/Lutheran;6 p.m.

Feb. 5;at Rushville Invitational;12 p.m.

Feb. 9;at Franklin Central/Muncie Central;6:30 p.m.

Feb. 12;at Bloomington North Invitational;11 a.m.

Feb. 22;vs. Shelbyville;6 p.m.

2022 New Palestine Gymnastics Roster

Name;Class

Kennedy Garrett;12

Alyse Rickey;12

Addi Bird;11

Emily Hunter;11

Addyson Kendall;11

Blakelie Brubeck;10

Rebecca Johnson;10

Maliah Ringham;10

JJ Fee;9

Chiara Polo;9

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