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03-22-05 Coldwater gymnasts up in air

By Timothy Cox

  The fate of Coldwater High School's gymnastics program is expected to be decided at today's school board meeting.

  School board members are expected to decide whether to keep the team among the district's varsity sports or whether to drop the program due to travel and schedule concerns. Administration officials are expected to recommend that board members fold the gymnastics program.
  However, board members are under intense public pressure, especially following a weekend community-wide campaign launched by the gymnasts and their families to garner support for the team. Gymnastics supporters went door-to-door through town during the past weekend soliciting support for the team.
  The school board meets at 6 p.m. in the kindergarten activity center. Gymnastics team members, their families and supporters packed the March 8 meeting but only a couple of people spoke after administration officials agreed to meet privately with them to discuss the issue. That meeting apparently failed to sway Superintendent Rich Seas and high school Principal Steve Keller, who plan to again recommend the gymnastics program be dropped.
  Several messages left for Seas on Monday and this morning were not returned by The Daily Standard's press time today. Keller also could not be reached for comment.  Administration officials report-edly were meeting together this morning, although it could not be determined if gymnastics was the issue they were discussing.
  Board member Jerry Meyer said he expects the administration to stick with its original recommendation.
  "Unless something comes up today to change that, I expect them to stay with that," Meyer said, declining to discuss his views on the issue.
  Gymnastics first came under the microscope a year ago when Delphos St. John's and Columbus Grove high schools folded their gymnastics programs. Those teams represented the Cavalier gymnasts' closest geographical opponents.
  Citing the fact that the gymnastics teams travels between 67 and 126 miles one way per competition, Keller recommended dropping the program. District policies limit travel for extra-curricular activities to a 60-mile radius. Gymnastics supporters, however, have shown the gymnastics team travels less miles than some other varsity programs.
  As a concession, Keller has offered the team the opportunity to operate as a club sport and still use the school's Ohio High School Athletic Association membership to participate in post season competition. That option would be too expensive and force the girls to travel even more for practices because they would not be able to use school facilities, and gymnastics supports say the idea is not feasible.
  The parents of all the gymnasts made a final plea for administration officials to change their minds in a letter to the editor that appeared in the March 19 issue of The Daily Standard.
  "The positives far exceed the negatives. We just do not see that these issues warrant the elimination of such a strong program," the parents wrote. "It is too extreme a measure. To most of these girls in this program, it is their only sport."
  Sixteen girls competed during the recent winter gymnastics season and supporters say there are plenty of younger girls interested in gymnastics based on enrollment at area fitness centers.
  If the Coldwater program is dropped, there would be no high school gymnastics across most of West Central Ohio, including Mercer, Auglaize, Van Wert, Allen, Darke and Shelby counties.


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