Gymnastics faces changes in upcoming season

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By: Stephanie Walstrom <swalstrom@hilite.org>

After coaching gymnastics for 30 years, gymnastics Head Coach Jerry Brickley has finally arrived at what he anticipates will be his hardest season ever: his last.

  According to Brickley, this season, his 19th coaching at CHS, will be bittersweet for many reasons. “This season will definitely be very hard in some respects. Gymnastics is fun for me, but it also really takes over my time. It will kind of be like getting my life back,” Brickley said.

Brickley said he is retiring from coaching after this year for medical reasons. “I am retiring from gymnastics to a great extent because of medical reasons. I have a condition called idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. It essentially causes pain and numbness in the feet and hands and has become increasingly worse over the last eight years,” he said. “I still love coaching but I feel that I just can’t do it at the same level anymore and that wasn’t fair to the girls. Besides, I feel it’s better to retire from something while you still enjoy it rather than hanging on until you don’t.”

Last season, the gymnastics team took fifth place in State in a close meet. The team was .02 points away from clinching fourth place and three points out of claiming first.

Events prevented many of last year’s letter winning gymnasts from returning this year. Jenny and Julie Strauch, sophomores last year, moved to Texas over the summer. Alyssa Montaño, a junior last year, moved to Florida over the summer. Nicole Herndon, also a junior member of the team from last year, is graduating midyear and will thus be ineligible to compete.

This leaves Brickley with only two returning letter winners, sophomores Dani Goeman and Kirsten Yamasaki. These girls will be the captains this year; there are no upperclassmen on the team. As of now, Brickley is anticipating a four-man team, the smallest he’s ever coached at CHS.

“It’s kind of the whole cliché of a rebuilding year,” Brickley said. “It’s just ironic that my rebuilding year would be my last year.”

Montaño, who now lives in Palm Harbor, FL, said it is unfortunate that the team was not able to return more gymnasts. “It is really sad that there is not a huge team at Carmel this year because we were so strong last season,” she said. “It’s a shame.”

Montaño graduated after first semester from her high school in Florida and now attends St. Petersburg College. She was unable to continue gymnastics in her new home because there was no gymnastics program.

Despite the many roadblocks, Brickley said he is still looking forward to the season. “It’s hard to say how well we’ll do this season. We’re still just getting to know the new people and see what they can do,” he said. “My goal is always to just have fun. Whatever we can do as far as score or record isn’t as important as just doing good gymnastics.” The team will start off the season with a meet at Warren Central on Jan. 8.

As for next year, a replacement for Brickley has not yet been announced, and none of the current assistant coaches will be returning.

“We have a few possibilities as of now, but we don’t know. I’ll definitely be involved in the decision process,” Brickley said.

He said he hopes to stay involved in the program next season as a meet director. “This program is my baby; I’ve coached here for 18 years and it’s become my program,” he said. “But after this year I’ll need to stay out of the gym and let it be the new coach’s program, or else the girls will still look to me. I know I will miss coaching, but I still intend to help out with the program by running home meets and acting as meet director for the (Metropolitan Interscholastic) Conference Championship.”

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