West Gymnastics: Raising the Bar


Nathan Mestel, Staff Member

Gymnastics doesn’t get much attention at the high school level, but it’s complex, rigorous and just as, if not more difficult than any other sport at the high school level. The gymnasts and coaches know that better than anyone else.

Shawnee Mission West has, in fact, only one gymnast competing for the school. Senior Jeanine Houghton has been a gymnast since the age of three, and currently competes under the West banner in competitions across the state. Houghton has been on the school gymnastics team since her freshman year, and has only gotten better since. 

“I only used to score[…] sixes or sevens. But now, I’m scoring like 8.75, which is pretty good,” Houghton said.

Gymnastics scoring has different thresholds for scoring depending on the difficulty level. Gymnasts can, in theory, be scored anywhere from zero to ten, but scores rarely ever dip lower than four. A two to three point improvement is nothing to scoff at; it’s a perfect example of the impact training leaves on high school gymnasts.

Even as the only gymnast representing West, Houghton has plenty of company at gymnastics practices and meets. Gymnasts from Shawnee Mission West, South and East all practice together at South with their coaches and each other.

 “Me and the East and South girls are super close; if they weren’t there, I probably wouldn’t do it again,”Houghon said.

 Despite not having enough kids to get a team score, Houghton’s gymnastics experience was made all the better by the friendships and camaraderie forged through competition and practice.

As mentioned before, gymnastics is nothing for the faint of heart. Braxton Quelle, one of the coaches for Shawnee Mission South, East and West, knows that better than anyone.

“It is not what you see on TV. They make it look really easy, and it takes a lot of dedication to learn skills,”Quelle said.

Training is every weekday, and consists of at least an hour working on all four events Floor, vault, bars, and beam, as well as an extensive warmup, stretching and work with individual athletes. It’s an activity that demands a lot out of everyone, but the gymnastics team has to be more than equipped to handle the challenges it presents.

As of Homecoming weekend, only a few meets remain before the big competition at State. Houghton said that a win at state would, “mean the world,” to her. She plans to continue her sizable gymnastics legacy by continuing to compete in college, and is very sad that her high school gymnastics career must come to an end; the school will be just as sad to see her go at her graduation. She’s represented West with skill and enthusiasm, and she’s more than prepared to go out with a bang at State in the weeks to come.