The Strongsville High School gymnastics team has qualified for and placed at the Ohio High School Athletic Association state gymnastics championships each of the past five seasons.
Despite a roster of only eight girls, third-year head coach Jennifer Huryn believes the Mustangs have the skills necessary to once again be one of the area's best squads.
Huryn has stressed to her team since the start of practice in November the importance of being consistent.
"The message has been [focused] on increasing our consistency in practice and in competitions," Huryn said. "They have the skills and talent to do well this season, even though we have a very small team, but we have to be able to hit our routines in meets and that can only happen with increased consistency in practice."
Through three competitions, the Mustangs have shown the promise Huryn forecasted in December. Led by top performances from 2012 state tournament participants Melissa Loy and Nicole Pratt, Strongsville has defeated North Royalton, Brunswick, Medina and Hudson.
Strongsville will face one of its stiffest tests this season on Saturday when the Mustangs participate in the 2013 Rock-n-Roll Classic hosted by Brecksville-Broadview Heights. The event, which is scheduled to feature 27 squads, is annually the state's largest regular season high school gymnastics meet.
A few weeks ago, Huryn answered questions about the 2012-13 Strongsville gymnastics team for WKYC's usatodayhss.com Web site.
WKYC's usatodayhss.com: Has your team adopted a motto for the season?
Strongsville gymnastics coach Jennifer Huryn: It's not really a motto, but the idea that every little bit helps; that the first girl up, even if she doesn't have the most difficulty or get the highest scores, she is just as valuable to the team as our top all-arounders.
WKYC: What is the biggest question/uncertainty about your team that you hope to have answered as the season progresses?
Huryn: Our consistency; the ability to hit events when it counts is an area of uncertainty and, hopefully, we will see that improve as the year goes on. Also, we have three gymnasts who have not competed for the past year so seeing how they will respond to competition again and if Hayley Klosowski - who injured her ACL last year - will be able to return to top form.
WKYC: What are your goals for your team this season?
Huryn: Win the Northeast Ohio Conference, qualify to state and break a [score of] 140.00.
WKYC: What must happen for your team to be able to accomplish those goals?
Huryn: We have to stay healthy and be consistent in competition; we can't afford multiple falls.
WKYC: Who are your team's leaders/captains this season? What do you expect each to bring to the team?
Huryn: Melissa Loy will bring experience and a calmness to the team. She has competed at three state championships and has been an individual qualifier the last two years. [I'm also] looking to sophomores Nicole Pratt and Erin Chips to be scoring leaders.
WKYC: Which newcomer(s) on your team has the best chance of becoming a household name by the end of the season? Why?
Huryn: We have no newcomers this year, but Hayley Klosowski was out with injury all last year and is looking at this year to come back strong and help lead the team.
WKYC: What is your team's greatest strength this season?
Huryn: We have a solid group of six gymnasts. We are strong at the first and second girl up, so that depth helps us along with big skills from Erin, Nicole, Melissa, and Hayley.
WKYC: What is your team's biggest weakness right now?
Huryn: A lack of numbers. We only have eight girls, so if someone goes down to injury, we are going to struggle.
WKYC: What makes your team this season unique from other area teams?
Huryn: We are a fairly laid back and relaxed team. We expect to do well, but try to have fun in the process.
For more Northeast Ohio high school sports news, scores, photos and videos, visit usatodayhss.com/Cleveland.