New gymnastics coaches familiar faces

Kentlake’s Ashley Pernell performs on the bars during a meet with Auburn Mountainview earlier this month. Pernell returned to the Falcons team which has two new co-coaches this year.  - Rachel Ciampi
Kentlake’s Ashley Pernell performs on the bars during a meet with Auburn Mountainview earlier this month. Pernell returned to the Falcons team which has two new co-coaches this year.
— image credit: Rachel Ciampi

By Alexandra Bolton

Kentlake’s gymnastics program has a pair of new faces in co-coaches Lindsey Duerre and Sheila Clark who replaced Marla Boyd.

“Big shoes to fill,” Duerre said. “A lot of the girls have been with her for four years, so they had a really strong connection with her. But she left a pretty good legacy of expectations for the girls and for the school, really good equipment, so a really solid foundation to be able to walk into. She definitely made sure, even though she knew she was going to be leaving, that she left it in the best way that she could.”

Duerre previously coached at Kentwood and Evergreen High School, while Clark coached at Roach Gymnastics for eight years and has also judged. Lacking any personal history, the two coaches have nonetheless been aware of each other due to their extensive history within the gymnastics community.

“The industry is pretty small,” Duerre said. “Either our girls have competed for or with or against each other, so we’ve seen each other around for a long time.”

Both Duerre and Clark have coached their girls, now sophomore gymnasts for Kentlake, since they were little.

“She’s been my coach for as long as I’ve done it,” said Avalyne Peters of her mother, Clark. “Even when she wasn’t technically my coach for the class, I would end up looking in the bleachers and having her tell me what I should do, how I could perfect it. She’s been my coach forever.”

Peters typically competes in all-around, but is currently sidelined with an injury.

Tahlia Duerre is one of the Falcon’s top seven gymnasts and is similarly accustomed to following her mother’s expertise.

In addition to the potential difficulties of changing leadership, the nature of gymnastics itself poses its own challenges for the Falcons upcoming season.

“This is a hard sport to take nine months off and then come in and pick back up where you left off,” Duerre said. “And a lot of the girls, within this first…less than a month, have gotten themselves back up to where they were before.”

Duerre also recognizes this difficulty as part of the reward.

“Gymnastics is very much an individual sport, so when you have a big success, it’s something that you have worked really hard to get,” Duerre said. “As much as their team and their team score counts, their individual successes and growth is really important. Being in high school and having success and confidence, and to see growth and be successful and be on the team, it’s kind of like a life skill that they will probably take with them.”

One key component of team growth in Duerre’s mind will be the junior varsity team, which was added this year, and its level of commitment. Conditioning has also been more intense, something both coaches and gymnasts grudgingly admitted as a benefit.

“I hope to see us come back as strong as we were last year,” Duerre said. “They’re all really talented and it’s just bringing out each individual one’s strength.”

The girls seem confident in the team, crediting their new leaders for taking them in a positive direction.

Senior Ashley Pernell, returned last year from an injury to become an all-around competitor and one of this season’s gymnasts to watch, had only encouraging things to say of her new coaches.

“They are very experienced,” Pernell said. “Sheila was my club coach, so she knows what she’s doing, and I trust her. I feel like we are going to go far this year, because we definitely have the potential. I think they are the perfect fit since Boyd left.”

As Peters watched the team practice, she observed the progress the Falcons have made so far.

“The team is looking good,” Peters said. “Everyone is getting everything they need. I think we will be set for the season.”


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