By David Fong
TROY — It wasn’t hard for Larry McCoppin to put things into historical perspective.
“Most of the girls on this team weren’t born the last time a Troy team made it to state,” the Troy gymnastics coach said.
While Troy has sent an individual competitor to state each of the past five years — including senior Claire Buerger last year and senior Minori Nakada two years ago — the Trojans haven’t had a full team compete at state since back-to-back appearances in 1999 and 2000.
As McCoppin correctly pointed out, all of the members of Troy’s team either weren’t born or were mere toddlers the last time that happened. If Troy’s recent run of success is any indication, however, that streak could be coming to a close in the next few weeks, as the Trojans appeared primed and ready to make a run at state.
“I think that’s got to be the goal for this group,” McCoppin said. “That’s a huge goal to have, but if things go the right way for us, we think it’s something we are capable of doing.”
Last week proved huge for the Trojans, who began the week by winning the Troy Invitational with a whopping 138.95 points — a score that would have qualified Troy for state at any of the district competitions held within the past decade — then closed the week by defeating Centerville on the Elks’ home floor. Troy won the Centerville Invitational with 137.4 points, while Centerville finished with a 136.025.
The victory over Centerville was significant in that the Elks have routinely been one of the stronger teams in the Dayton area the past 15 years likely will be one of the teams pushing Troy for the top two spots at the Feb. 27 district meet. The top two teams from the Southwest District qualify for the state meet.
“I think it’s fair to say Centerville has been the team to beat in the Dayton area for a long time,” McCoppin said. “If they are not the top team, they are usually close to it. Centerville and Mason have been the top two teams in the district in recent years. I think this gives us a lot of confidence, but hopefully does not make us too overconfident.”
The four stalwarts for the team this season have been Nakada, Buerger, senior Grace Dwyer and freshman Lizzie Deal, but McCoppin said Troy’s greatest strength lies within its depth — and the team’s ability to have someone different step up at every meet.
“I think the kids are really pulling together,” McCoppin said. “Our last meet against Centerville was a great example. One of our stronger kids on the beam had a fall, but one of our seniors, Kayla Coate, really stepped up. She’s really been frustrated by injuries this year, but she stepped up and scored an 8.85 when we needed her to. I think that’s what you look for in a team — for one kid to step up when another kid makes a mistake.”
McCoppin said the mix of four seniors — Nakada, Buerger, Coate and Dwyer — along with the underclassmen on the team make it a fun group to be around during practice and meets, and the chemistry between the 14 gymnasts helps keep things loose.
“Our four seniors do a great job of leading this team,” he said. “Then we’ve got the 10 underclassmen who bring a youthful exuberance. It’s a good combination to have. They work really well together.”
McCoppin is hoping they work well enough to take the Trojans someplace they haven’t been in a lifetime.
Contact David Fong at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter @thefong