BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — If the old saying, “It’s not how to start a season but where you end it,” holds true, then this gymnastics season couldn’t have gone much better for a trio of local athletes.
Aizlin Westcott, Ryan Lambdin and Josh Lankey, who all compete out of Exceleration Gymnastics Center in Toledo, ended their seasons at national competitions in Florida. Lambdin and Lankey competed in Fort Lauderdale in late April, while Westcott was in Kissimmee in early May.
Westcott took sixth place in the all-around competition, while medaling in both bars and beam. She’s a Level 9 gymnast who will be entering her senior year at Penta Career Center in the fall.
The beginning of her junior season looked starkly different than the finish. She was battling a back injury and couldn’t compete.
“At my first meet, I was only supposed to compete in the vault,” she said. “I went to the meet and didn’t even flip. I had felt like it was time to be done and I wasn’t going to get back to where I was because of the injury.”
She credits her coaches, however, with sticking with her and motivating her to keep training. She ended the season winning regionals and competing at the national event.
“I am so proud of how far I’ve come with this sport, considering everything I’ve had to go through,” Westcott said.
Lankey is the youngest of the group, having just finished his eighth-grade year at the Northwest Ohio Classical Academy; his home district is Maumee. He’s a Level 8 gymnast and he finished fourth on the high bar at the national competition.
At nationals, Lankey said he wasn’t too nervous and just tried to have fun.
“My coaches have taught me to keep going and help me improve,” he said. “They really care.
“As for my teammates, every season we get closer and closer and it’s good that we are friends outside the gym.”
For Lambdin, this was his final go-around as a competitive gymnast. He graduated from Penta this year, but he’ll begin coaching at Exceleration.
“Being a gymnast kept me physically fit and now that I have graduated, I can still be fit and stay fit because I’m coaching,” he said. “Coaching will benefit me because it’s going to open my eyes to a whole new world and the challenges of gymnastics.”
A Level 9 gymnast, Lambdin placed fourth in the vault at nationals.
Lambdin’s sister, Ashley, is a coach at the gym as well. She was proud of how the three competed at nationals.
“They put in lots of hard work and competed against lots of other very competitive gyms,” she said. “I think it was a great experience for them all to help get their name out there and see what it was like to compete at that level and see all their hard work pay off.”
In addition to competing at nationals, Westcott was also named to the Senior 7 Dream Team for Region 5. Now entering her senior year at Penta, Westcott is hoping to have the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level.
With one more year left at Exceleration, she has had a great experience at the gym, crediting her coaches and teammates with saving her life.
“Without them, I don’t know where I would be,” she said. “They are amazing people who have been able to help with every mental block and bad day.
“I have learned so much from my coaches and I’m grateful for the experience I’ve been able to have at the gym.”
For Ashley Lambdin, the feeling was mutual. She said watching her brother, Lankey and Westcott make it to nationals was “extremely rewarding.”
“It is truly amazing watching them grow as athletes and individuals and seeing all of the great things they have accomplished,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what all of their futures consist of.”