BBHHS gymnastics brings home sweet 16th straight state championship

by Laura Straub

“No one wants to break the streak,” said Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School gymnastics coach Joan Ganim. “Each year, the girls want to be part of a state championship team.”

Although Ganim recognizes that the streak might end some year, 2019 was not the year. During the team competition of the state tournament on March 1, Bees girls brought home their sweet 16th title in a row, and 19th overall.

Joan Ganim. Photo from ScripType archives

Although these highflying athletes make it look effortless, upholding their winning tradition doesn’t come easy. According to Ganim, it takes diligent practice and a lot of time in the gym.

The team practices at Gymnastics World in Broadview Heights, which Ganim, a Broadview Heights resident, opened with her late husband Ron in 1974. The business has played an important role in the success of Bees gymnastics.

“Many of the girls are also part of the Gymnastics World competitive program,” Ganim said.

She said the competitive club program draws many aspiring gymnasts to the Brecksville and Broadview Heights communities.

Erin Delahunty of Broadview Heights practices a swing.Photo by J. Kananian

Regardless of whether the gymnasts compete exclusively on the high school team or on club teams as well, training is crucial.

Athletes in the Gymnastics World club program practice between 16-20 hours a week year-round. Non-club athletes on the BBHHS team practice about four hours a week during the off-season and 10 during the season.

“To stay on top, training competitively is very important,” Ganim said. “Those that choose not to compete for Gym World, or possibly another club, usually take high school gymnastics classes during the off season to maintain and hopefully improve their skills.”

But the team doesn’t spend all of its practice time perfecting skills.

Folusa Bolaji of Broadview Heights practices on the uneven bars. Photo by J. Kananian

“The coaches spend a lot of time trying to teach the girls what it takes to win and what it takes to be successful,” said Ganim. “Talent helps, but dealing with pressure and adversity during the season is even more important. Also, teaching them what it means to be part of a team; performances are not just about me.”

The team travels to about eight meets every season, along with an invitational and the sectional, district and state tournaments.

“During the season, we try to give as many girls as we can a chance to compete,” Ganim said. “When it comes tournament time, we are limited to only six girls per event and need to use the girls who will advance the furthest, as well as help the team meet its goals.”

This year’s state competitors lived up to the winning tradition set by the athletes that came before them. In addition to the state title, three competitors placed in the individual competition.

Senior Izzy Abookire was state champion on the bars, tied for second in floor exercise and placed third in the all-around competition. Sophomore Katie Dembie placed second on the vault, sixth on the bars and sixth in all-around. Freshman Erin Delahunty placed third on the beam and seventh on the vault.

Ganim has been involved in gymnastics since competing for Kent State University from 1965-1969. She started teaching and coaching at Brecksville from 1969 until 1974, when she became pregnant with her second child. When she and Ron opened Gymnastics World, they took a hiatus from BBHHS gymnastics while they established their business.

Ganim returned to coach the high school team in 1989, when her daughter began competing on the team. Today, Ganim coaches the team alongside her assistant coaches: daughter Maria Schneider and former Bees gymnast Leah Miko, an all-around state champion in 2010 and member of the 2007-2010 state championship teams.

Featured image photo caption: The Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School gymnastics team won its 16th consecutive state championship – and 19th overall – in March. Photo by J. Kananian