Fraser sophomore Mia Bosca placed second in vault and fourth in the all-around competition at the Fraser Invitational on Jan. 7 at Fraser High School.

Fraser sophomore Mia Bosca placed second in vault and fourth in the all-around competition at the Fraser Invitational on Jan. 7 at Fraser High School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Veterans, newcomers balance Fraser gymnastics

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published January 9, 2023

 Junior Ashlee Thursam competes on the balance beam.

Junior Ashlee Thursam competes on the balance beam.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


FRASER — If one thing has withstood the test of time for Fraser gymnastics, it’s that their experienced gymnasts learn how to become leaders in the blink of an eye.

The 2022 seniors did it when now-junior captain Malaya Owens came over last year from the Fraser cheer team and multiple newcomers joined the squad for their regional championship run.

If falling 3.4 points short of a state finals berth didn’t strike the team enough, the departure of senior leaders Constance Gresko, Madison Hissong, Gloria Arwood, Kyla Wygant, Ashlynn Moler and Darrah Fantin would leave the team going back to the drawing board for the 2023 season.

“They were big role models on the team,” Owens said. “They definitely left us something to look up to, but it’s like an example to look up to. I don’t look at it as intimidating when looking at stepping into their place.”

One of the eight returning starters for Fraser, Owens headlines the experienced group alongside senior captain Emily Drost and senior Breanna Groves; juniors Ashlee Thursam, Kylie Maley, and Leah Roels; and sophomores Lylah Rodgers and Lucy Koch.

Owens and Roels are the only returning starters to qualify for regionals last season.

“They all kind of realized that there was this big gap with the eight returners,” Fraser first-year head coach Elizabeth Avila said. “They practiced and worked together all summer so they could become close and help the new people.”

Fraser’s new-look squad captured a victory in their opening meet against Birmingham United on Dec. 14. in not only an icebreaker for Fraser’s new gymnasts, but Avila’s first meet as head coach. Avila previously spent the last four seasons as an assistant coach for Fraser.

“It was very much a learning experience for me as a head coach and for the girls who never competed in high school gymnastics,” Avila said.

The win brought a huge exhale from a squad that hasn’t had a moment to slow down and develop a bond this year so far.

While the team hasn’t been able to do much outside of the gym together yet, Owens said the first meet developed something she wasn’t expecting.

“After the first meet, everyone connected,” Owens said. “I don’t know if it was magical or something.”

The team responded with an impressive performance at the Fraser Invitational at Fraser High School on Jan. 7, placing fourth out of nine participating teams. Owens placed second overall on the floor, while tying Rodgers for third in vault. Sophomore Mia Bosca placed second in vault and fourth in all-around competition.

This year, Fraser found magic while trying to replace a strong senior class in a short period of time. With nine graduating seniors in 2022 outnumbering eight returning starters, the team was left with one job before the 2023 season started. Owens, Drost and the rest of the team hit the hallways in search of new recruits.

“We knew we were going to lose some really heavy hitters on our team, so we just hoped and prayed that we got some people,” Owens said. “I was out scouting in the hallways like, ‘Please, please!’”

Owens’ prayers were answered when six newcomers would join the Fraser squad. It was a sigh of relief for not only the coaching staff, but for the gymnasts-turned-saleswomen as they saw their hard work pay off.

That was until the first week of practice started, and in Fraser fashion, the veterans knew what was expected of them early.

“Everyone was really stressed out at first because they didn’t know what was going on, because they’ve never done it before, so we just kind of all had to figure out ways to bring them in and teach them everything,” Drost said.

It may be only a matter of time until the inexperienced group finds its rhythm, but some have already impressed early.

“For bars specifically, I think Mia (Bosca) is a very, very big asset to bars,” Owens said. “For vault, I think Mia (Bosca) and Dorothy (Poljanac) are really getting it. For vault, I think everyone is getting it. You’d think the newcomers would be scared of beam, but we have so many good people on beam.”

Drost said the newcomers’ cheer team experience made it an easier transition to gymnastics.

“Even if they didn’t do gymnastics before, they were on the cheer team so they already had valuable skills,” Drost said. “Everyone has really been an asset to our scores and everything.”

Bosca and Poljanac, both sophomores, are expected to represent Fraser in all-around competition this year.

With only a few meets under their belt and heavy-hitting invitationals coming up, there’s an exciting year ahead for Fraser gymnastics.

“Everyone on the team has different sets of skills that are an asset to the team,” Drost said. “I think combining all of them, we have a pretty good shot.”