"I'm looking forward to seeing them enjoying their routines because they have been putting in a lot of hours and they all seem pretty proud of their routines," suggested Sudbury Laurels T & T (Tumbling & Trampoline) coach Graham Boland the week before his team of nine made their way to Kingston for the 2022 Ontario Championships earlier this month.
Given the on and off status of training these past few years, many gymnasts entered the meet with relatively modest goals, probably more thrilled to simply be competing again rather than concerned a whole lot over score and placement.
Fourteen year old soon-to-be high-schooler Hector Loiselle was not among this group. Having enjoyed a growth spurt and armed with a very solid core of fundamental athletic attributes, the multi-sport talent had set aside splitting his time between speed-skating and gymnastics in order to seriously give the latter a shot.
"I'm very powerful and tumbling is a powerful sport," he said, assessing why the fit in the gym might be better than on the ice. "I can also run pretty fast and that's important to get into your pass."
Still, there was this jump from 5'2" to 5'7" to deal with. "I had to adapt a bit - but honestly, I think after Covid, I've gotten better. I've been more brave so I've tackled bigger tricks. My skills have gotten a lot higher so I can do more things in the air."
That said, there were some clear-cut adjustments that needed to be made to compensate for the growth that Loiselle was seeing in the various elements of hiis pass. "Before, I used to start my pass way earlier, but now I have to back it up."
"I can do less of a run in to it now because I'm taller and my skills take up more place."
Loiselle would capture the Level 5 men's division comfortably, averaging more than 21 points in each of his four passes, good for an overall score of 84.570, well ahead of Andrew Graham of Burlington (80.800).
In fact, the five other competitors combined for just three scores above 21 of the twenty passes they performed - all of which means that the student at Lo-Ellen Park likely nailed it pretty well when he provided the following assessment of the pros and cons of his runs.
"In my first pass, I have a simple round-off - I've been able to do that since I was six - and my whip, which I've gotten pretty good at," said Loiselle. "But my hand springs, even though they're simple, I need to think a lot about it if I want to get higher on the end skill."
"You have to remember to not snap your feet in, to kind of stand up instead of leaning back - and also leave your hands on the ground a little bit longer."
A 14 year-old now who started initially with artistic gymnastics, Jessica Abbott clearly found her calling moving to the trampoline. "There is just this feeling when you are on the tramploine that you are free," said the fellow grade eight student at LOE.
"As soon as I started flipping and doing the bigger skills, it really started to feel that way. I was always better at the trampoline than I was at the other events."
Where most sports saw some run-off of athletes due to the pandemic, Abbott was not among those who gave leaving her passion much thought at all. "For me, it was definitely: I'm going back, no matter what," she said.
"I love the trampoline and would never leave."
And hile she was every bit as anxious as Loiselle to get back out on the provincial circuit, there was a more cautious approach for the Women 14/15 Level 2 competitor who is looking to make the jump to Level 3 next year.
"At the first qualifier (in April), it was just to see where I am compared with everyone else at my level," said Abbott. "With the second qualifier, it was more of a let's compete mindset. But going into provincials, I don't have specific scores in mind."
"I have all of these little goals: stay in the middle of the trampoline, keep legs straight, things like that. I want to accomplish all of those."
Abbott would finish in ninth place, just barely missing out on a top eight finish that would have put her in the final. Her score of 79.610 was less than a point back of Lilah Rosevear (Osborne Academy of Acrobatics - Pickering), who came in at 80.400.
In the end, it was a learning experience for both athletes and coaches alike, with Boland making the move from the recreational to the competitive ranks ccoming out of Covid. A former Laurels competitor within the men's artistic grouping, the 25 year-old who is contemplating perhaps a masters in Forensic Science has had to round out his overall T & T knowledge in order to work with his group of nine.
"With the tumbling, you do have a lot of crossover with the floor element of men's artistic," said Boland. "Trampoline is kind of its own beast, to a degree. Flips cross over but there are other skills that you might not do at all in artistic."
Overall, Boland is both thankful that the majority of his pre-Covid athletes are still in place and well on their way to reaching new heights, both figuratively and literally. "As a group, everyone that has stick around has returned to and surpassed where they were prior to the lockdowns," he said.
"It was a little tough with the on and off, sort of a twp steps forward one step back type of feeling. But rather than focusing on getting them to provincials, it was more about seeing how some of these kids would compete and building up the mental fortitude that comes with the feeling of competition."
"It had been roughly three years since they last competed."
Other local results included:Shelby Schwar (Women 15+ - Level 3 - Tumbling)
3rd place - 66.530
*just ahead of Hayden Ashely (Toronto Premier Gymnastics) at 66.430 in fourth
Brent Farnsworth (Men - Level 7 - Trampoline)
3rd place - 139.600
*just back of Alex Rojas (Ascension Trampoline - Aurora) at 141.630 (2nd) but comfortably ahead of Nicholas Kvrgic (Osborne Academy) in fourth place (131.240)
Kylie Baxter (Women 16+ - Level 2 - Trampoline)
4th place - 126.940
*barely missed out on podium finish with Evi Kyrlangitses (Just Bounce Trampoline Club - North York) - 127.070 (3rd) and Eloise Mouille (Burlington T & T) - 127.100 (2nd) just ahead
Kierra Pheasant (Women 12U - Level 1 - Trampoline)
5th place - 119.480
*Laurence Crepin (Club Les Sittelles - Orléans) was in 4th with a score of 120.140
Jacob Costello (Men - Level 1 - Trampoline)
7th place - 118.320
*just behind Julien Fedor (Club Les Sittelles - Orléans) with 118.830 in 6th place
Victoria Baxter (Women 15+ - Level 2 - Tumbling)
13th place - 35.800
*tied with Noelani Charles (Velocity Sports - Alliston)
Brielle Tremblay (Women 13/14 - Level 1 - Tumbling)
15th place - 36.000
*just ahead of Sam Harvey (Markham Gymnastics Club) - 35.900 (16th) and Alia Sturgis (Pulsars Gymnastics Club - Newmarket) - 35.700 (17th)