Bees’ gymnastics team lands 21st consecutive state championship

by Dan Holland

One of the longest high school sports championship streaks in the nation extended its winning streak to 21 consecutive team state championships on March 2, as the Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School gymnastics team took part in the Ohio High School Athletics Association state tournament at Hilliard Bradley High School in the Columbus area – the same location where the team won its 20th overall team state championship last year.

The Bees won their first team state title in 1994 under coaches Joan Ganim and her husband, the late Ron Ganim, who together opened Gymnastics World in Broadview Heights in 1975. The family legacy at BBHHS continues under their daughter, Maria Schneider, who took over as head coach when Joan Ganim retired in 2019.

Over that span, not only has the program created a high school gymnastics team dynasty, but it has also produced 49 individual state gymnastics champions, including six since Schneider assumed the helm in 2020. The Bees’ Gianna Ravagnani was the individual state champion in vault in 2023.

The Bees won the Northeast Ohio District championship held Feb. 17 at Berea-Midpark High School, edging out the Berea-Midpark team by an overall team score of 145.8 to 144.1.

Ten members competed at this year’s state meet, including seniors Lea Haverdill and Jeanne Winzenn. The two seniors, along with juniors Ravagnani and Rachel Kelly, sophomore Rachel Kirin and freshmen Abby Pignatiello and Olivia Vasilen, also qualified for the individual state competition.

The team’s 2023 state-title win came down to less than a one-point differential, with BBHHS edging out Olentangy Berlin 148.825 to 148.05. The Bees pulled out a come-from-behind victory by earning the high score on the final event – the vault.

The 2024 championship meet turned out to be just as much of a nail-biter. The day got off to a rocky start after one team member experienced a fall on the beam during the team’s the first routine. By the final event – the bars – however, Ravagnani had a near-perfect performance that gave her teammates the momentum they needed to defeat Magnificat High School. The margin of victory came down to less than a tenth of a point.

Building a legacy

Over the decades, Gymnastics World, where BBH gymnasts train throughout the year, has focused on maintaining and promoting mental well being as a vital aspect of the program for both high school and club team members. Schneider, a former BBHHS gymnast and current teacher at Brecksville-Broadview Heights Middle School, has continued the program’s philosophy of “teach the child first, and then the athlete.”

“It’s more than just gymnastics; it goes beyond the sport, and the importance of recognizing and understanding that these girls are more than just gymnasts,” said Schneider. “Of course, it’s important to gain the skills and put in the hard work, but they also have other things going on that we have to be aware of and recognize and honor.”

Team members will often engage in meditation, visualization and breathing exercises to calm nerves and boost performance levels prior to and during competitions, said Schneider.

Camaraderie is another important element, as many of the gymnasts have longtime friendships within the local gymnastics community, with many of them starting in the program during their pre-school years, she added.

Staying motivated to continue the championship streak that began before any of the current team members were born can add pressure at times, especially with all the media focus on the program in recent years, including national news media coverage, said Schneider.

“With having won 20 years straight and 23 overall, that’s the expectation for us,” she said prior to the state tournament. “I don’t know what will happen when the streak finally ends. If it happens at some point, it won’t be the girls’ fault; it will just be due to another team being better that particular year.”

“We have another good team this year, but it’s been a bit of a struggle, because we’ve had a number of girls coming back from injuries,” Schneider added. “So, we really haven’t seen our team at its full potential yet. Hopefully, we’ll see them at their peak during the state meet.”

For 2024, mission accomplished. ∞

The BBHHS gymnastics team took home the championship trophy March 3 following
its stellar performance at the state tournament in Columbus. This is the teams 21st consecutive state title and 24th state title in the team’s history. Photo submitted.

On our cover (photo): The Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School gymnastics team extended its dynasty to 21 consecutive state titles March 3 when they won the 2024 state tournament in Columbus by less than one-tenth of a point over Magnificat High School. Photo submitted.