By Timothy Cox
COLDWATER -- High school gymnasts and their parents are trying to head off an effort to scrap the gymnastics program at Coldwater High School.
More than three dozen people packed the meeting room at Tuesday's regular school board meeting, urging district officials to reconsider plans to fold the gymnastics program for next year. District officials had decided to drop gymnastics last year but granted the program a one-year reprieve and promised to evaluate the situation again this year.
High school Principal Steve Keller supports dropping the program because of scheduling difficulties and extensive travel. Those issues were compounded during the past gymnastics season because the school's two closest opponents in gymnastics -- Delphos St. John's and Columbus Grove -- dropped their gymnastics programs.
A meeting between district administrators and parents of the gymnasts is scheduled for later this week. The sides will weigh the positive and negative points of the program before administrators make a recommendation to the school board.
The parents also asked that a couple of advisory groups of parents look at the issue to provide an independent, unbiased analysis. District officials said the gymnastics program would be given a fair evaluation.
"We will gather the information and decide accordingly," board member Gary Lefeld said.
The 16-member team just ended its season two weeks ago.
Only two of the three dozen people at the meeting opted to speak. It was a far different scene than a year ago when numerous parents and gymnasts offered passionate pleas to board members to keep the program alive.
The parents group did offer some evidence they say offsets concerns about scheduling and travel.
Despite the loss of two opponents, the team still had 11 meets this past season, only one fewer than last year. Findlay High School competed in eight events while Dayton Northmont had only five meets. All events are on weekends to limit travel on school nights.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association requires only two meets per year and limits the gymnastics season to no more than 14 events.
The parents also said 93 percent of the gymnasts have been on the honor roll throughout the entire school year. Only six gymnasts in the Northwest District were named scholar athletes; three of them are from Coldwater.
Travel for gymnastics is not any more significant than for other varsity sports, the parents said. An analysis of travel for all sports showed the gymnastics team logged 1,029 miles this past season.
By comparison, the football team, using three buses, logged a total of 937 miles during the regular season, before piling up another 1,296 miles during the playoffs. The volleyball team traveled 964 miles during the regular season. The cross country program traveled 1,016 miles, the boys basketball team drove 1,119 miles and girls basketball piled up 785 miles.
During the upcoming spring sports season, the track program is expected to drive 1,483 miles, the baseball team 1,932 miles and the softball program 1,302 miles.
"We feel we have a long and proud history of over 30 years at the school," parent Diane Wellman told board members, urging them to keep the gymnastics program alive.