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Huntsman, Fischer to lead Waldron gymnastics

By KRIS MILLS - kmills@shelbynews.com

You may never know it, but some of Shelby County’s top athletes practice every winter inside Girls Inc. Running, jumping, flipping -- you name it, these gymnasts participate in a sport unlike most have ever seen.

Not every sport actually requires a full-body workout. And not every sport requires athletes to bend and manipulate themselves in midair. Gymnastics is not for the faint of heart -- Waldron seniors Erika Huntsman and Taylor Fischer know this better than most.

E. Huntsman and Fischer will help lead a rather young gymnastics program in its third year in existence. For the first time this season, however, the team will be able to compete as the Mohawks. Senior Haley Batz joins the experienced duo as the third member of the program. Three gymnasts are required to record an official team score.

For Fischer, who enters her senior campaign with the most experience on the team, getting back into gymnastics shape -- again -- has not been easy. The sport is challenging. It requires confidence, stamina and persistence.

“It is just so hard,” said Fischer, who played volleyball in the fall and runs track in the spring. “I have always been rolling around, I think that is why my mom put me in it as a kid. In gymnastics, your whole body has to be in sync with the rest of it. You are in the air and you have to make your body look how it is supposed to look. It is not natural almost.”

The senior, who started gymnastics at the age of four, was one of two girls, with E. Huntsman, to help Waldron start a program before her sophomore campaign. It was E. Huntsman’s idea, she said, but Fischer was more than happy to participate in a sport she was dedicated to for seven years. After becoming a cheerleader shortly after, an elbow injury made it difficult to compete in any sport.

“I had surgery on my elbow in between my freshman and sophomore year,” Fischer said. “I was doing tumbling in cheerleading on the gym floor and after doing gymnastics for so long the cartilage had worn down in my elbow. Other than that I have been really lucky. After I got it fixed, I waited a little longer to recover. It was a little scaring doing the hard tumbling again.”

Fischer, who said her most “consistent” event is the vault, will again compete in the all-around this season (Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam, Floor Exercise). E. Huntsman, with the help of Fischer, has added the bars to her repertoire and will also compete in the all-around for the first time in her career. She said it was “kind of overwhelming” to pick up the sport again as a sophomore.

“I hadn’t done it for a while, and your body has to get used to it again,” E. Huntsman said, who began the sport when she was 12. “I like gymnastics, because you have to individually be the best that you can be. But you also have to encourage others around you to be the best they can be, too.

“I probably worked on my tumbling the most during the offseason. Just critiquing everything and trying to make it as perfect as I can.”

Batz is still learning the ropes and will improve each meet. For now, she will compete in the floor exercise and balance beam, according to Mohawks head coach Janice Huntsman.

J. Huntsman, who did not coach last season after helping start the program two years ago, said she is looking forward to competing as an actual team. She agreed that gymnastics can be extremely challenging -- in relation to other high school activities.

“When you are a gymnast, you utilize every aspect of your body,” J. Huntsman said. “I think people don’t realize it, it is so much harder than you think. You are tumbling up in the air and you land, like woah, what kind of impact does that have? It takes a lot of dedication and strength.

“All three of the girls took gymnastics as children and then stepped away from it. All of them are fun loving girls who just want to have a good time. Erika has grown leaps and bounds on the beam and floor. Taylor continues to be strong on the vault, beam and floor. Her abilities on the bars have increased, as well. The bars at an older age are much more difficult to learn.”

Waldron’s senior trio will begin their season on Thursday at Girls Inc. against New Palestine and Shelbyville. The sectional will be in Connersville on Feb. 24.

Kris Mills is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Kris on Twitter @KrisMills37.