If you’re a member of the Hudson gymnastics team, you might be reluctant to leave your house.
That’s because the Explorers have gotten quite a lesson regarding a certain phrase normally reserved for inspirational purposes.
"No pain, no gain."
In this case, though, there is only pain and not a trace of gain for snakebitten Hudson.
Four gymnasts recently suffered serious injuries. Sadly, two of those unfortunate teenagers will not be competing this season.
They are sophomores Josie Hall, who has a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Claire Wilcox, who broke her back.
On top of that, junior Sam Sigler and sophomore Laurel Gomersal aren’t expected to join the team until later in the season due to broken ankles.
Tenth-year head coach Megan Mertz, who enters her fourth season with the Explorers, may want to seek advice from the late American evangelist Billy Graham when it comes to her battered and bruised team.
"Out of pain and problems have come the sweetest songs and the most gripping stories."
Mertz certainly hopes so. Fortunately, she still has her big three. And they have already written some of the "sweetest songs" and "most gripping stories" in their decorated careers.
All three of them are healthy too. For now, at least.
If Hudson wants to continue its status as one of the top teams in the state, seniors Julia Petty and Sydney DePompei and junior Alyssa Bezdek will lead the way. Thanks to these gifted young ladies, the Explorers finished fifth at the 2019 state meet. Hudson also placed third in the vaunted Suburban League behind defending 16-time state champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights and perennial state powerhouse North Royalton.
By the way, all three of those young ladies competed as individuals at the previous season’s state competition.
"They all have upgrades and are hoping to make it back to the state meet this season," Mertz said.
Petty, a two-time state qualifier, placed ninth on the uneven parallel bars, 26th on the floor exercise and 31st on vault to finish 19th in the all-around competition at the 2019 state meet.
DePompei, who enters her second year with Hudson, placed sixth on the floor and Bezdek, despite a — you guessed it — injury, finished 36th on the balance beam.
Interestingly enough, this "big three" could become a "Fab Four" when it’s all said and done.
That’s because a gifted newcomer has a chance to join this amazing trio at the ultimate stage.
Her name is Lindsey Havens, a sophomore who excels in all four events.
"Lindsey will be adding some depth to this team," Mertz said. "I’m hoping she will join the other three in [Hilliard]."
Other team members include returnees Abby Young, a junior, and Ava Guistino, a sophomore. Mertz also welcomes freshman Lydia Redd to the team.
Mertz’s assistant is Molly Medeya, who enters her third year with the Explorers.
If the injuries weren’t distressing enough, Hudson also won’t have the services of two veteran all-around performers, who were the undisputed leaders of the team last winter.
They are Lina Ikhlef and Makayla Hudy, who graduated during the spring.
And of course, the Explorers’ trip to the 2019 state competition didn’t occur without adversity. Hudson got off to a rough start before putting it all together when it really counted.
As a result, the Explorers grabbed the fifth and final spot at their district meet in Chesterland.
Such fierce competition won’t change this season. In fact, it may be more difficult than ever.
"I believe Brecksville is still the favorite, but we’re hoping to place a little higher than we did last year," Mertz said. "It’s going to be close, as always, with Mentor, Chardon and North Royalton, but I also think Brunswick is sneaking in there.
"The state of Ohio has some of the best high school gymnastics and a lot of that comes out of Northeast Ohio. Our conference is one of the toughest and I know my girls are fighting to place at it.
"We need to get healthy and stay that way. That will make or break our season."
Considering its array of injuries, "break" might not be an appropriate word to use if you wear a leotard for Hudson.
Nevertheless, the Explorers also know things could be much, much worse.
Hudson plans to volunteer at a local hospital to work with families during the holidays.
While it won’t make her fallen gymnasts’ physical pain disappear, Mertz believes this type of work features a healing process that goes far beyond broken bones and torn ligaments.
Or, as 20th-century American professor and author Joseph Campbell once said: "Find a place inside where there's joy and the joy will burn out the pain."
"I believe it is very important to teach my team about the real world outside of high school and sports," Mertz said. "We get all caught up in our everyday tiny dramas that we forget about what might be going on around us.
"It’s an eye-opener for all the girls as we get to work with families and help them try to enjoy the holidays, even though they can’t be home to celebrate them.
"It’s sad, but at the end of the day, it’s so rewarding to see these girls interact and know that they’re helping kids and their families.
"We also take a day out of practice and make holiday cards and send them to the hospital for both kids and the veterans. My goal is for the girls to look back and remember how good it feels to give back and to continue doing it in the future."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.