Lily and Emma Nolan already had plenty in common.
For one, they’re sisters. Lily is slightly older, a junior at North Olmsted High School. Emma is a freshman.
They’re both experienced gymnasts, each having started in the sport about eight years ago. As high schoolers, they both compete for the Eagles varsity program.
If you ask them what each other’s strengths are, they’d say consistency and determination to perform their routines well, even if they’re having a bad day.
And after a string of standout postseason scores, they can now both say they experienced reaching the state meet in Columbus, making some school history in the process.
“It was great that we had each other because it was the first time making it to states for both of us and we got to experience it together,” Lily said. “We will be able to look back on it together in the future.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s annual meet was held March 5-6 at Hilliard Bradley High School. It was split into two sessions as a way to limit the number of people in the gym at one time, in line with COVID-19 protocols.
The Nolans competed during the first session, held March 5. Lily qualified for the meet after placing 16th in the floor exercise (8.975 score) at the district meet in Mentor the week prior. Emma finished eighth on the vault (9.225), 14th on the balance beam (9.050) and 13th in the all-around (35.850) to punch her ticket to Columbus. At district, the top 17 individuals in each event, as well as the all-around, move on to state.
They’re the first Eagles to reach state since the combo of Quinn Kacirek and Kristian Nash-Carabello did so in 2013.
“It’s rare for sisters to both qualify for state,” said Eagles head coach Teresa Principi, herself a former gymnast on the team who graduated in 1991. “I think it’s a really cool thing they got to experience that together. It was both their first times making it down there and I think it was a really cool experience for both of them.”
It was also a nerve-wracking one. The Nolans walked into the gym at Hilliard Bradley not knowing anyone else there. Many gymnasts competing for high schools are also part of club programs, giving the sport a level of familiarity and camaraderie that others don’t typically have, as they see each other at events and interact year-round. Emma and Lily both train and compete for a small club, Johnson Dance & Gymnastics, based in Valley View.
But by the end of Emma’s beam routine during that Friday session, she’d drawn a bit of a crowd. In her estimation, it was her best beam performance of the year, her 9.475 score earning her third place amongst a talented field. Her score tied the 2012 school record set by Kacirek.
“When I realized that I placed I was really excited to go and tell everyone,” Emma said.
“They train at a small club in Valley View, so they didn’t know anybody there,” said Principi, who also assists with the Fairview and St. Joseph Academy programs. “During beam, you see all these athletes and their coaches kind of cheering (Emma) on. It’s really cool to see the support for a gymnast who’s an unknown and also a freshman. It was a really cool moment for me to see.”
If the Nolans were unknown before, that isn’t the case now.
“My experience at states was really fun,” Emma said. “The girls from the other schools were really supportive and made it more enjoyable.”
Emma also placed 10th in the all-around with a 36.625 score. Lily took 24th on the floor with a 9.075.
“I had a great time at state,” Lily said. “ I was very excited to see if it would be any different from a regular meet. I loved that I met new girls who were very supportive, even though we just met. I liked watching new people comete and cheering them on as well. It was very fun and I’ll never forget it.”
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