LOWELL | Melena Hernandez's comeback trail keeps growing longer and longer.
It has been two years since the now-senior competed for the Lowell gymnastics team, a dry spell that should finally come to an end this week as the Red Devils have three meets on the docket. While inclement weather has wreaked havoc on the schedule so far this season and though Lowell has competed in two meets so far, nagging injuries have kept Hernandez out of the lineup.
The return has been a long time coming for Hernandez, who competed for Lowell her freshman season but focused on club gymnastics as a sophomore and junior.
“I wanted to get back into club so I could get bigger skills and I wanted to get my technique cleaned up,” Hernandez said of her hiatus. “I wanted to come back and finish with all my friends and be a part of the school for my last year.”
With Hernandez back, Lowell has on paper one of its deepest teams in recent memory. Second-year head coach Joe Rodenbucher is happy to have his senior on the team — and will be even happier once she’s able to compete.
“She took (time) off from high school, but she still did club gymnastics. She wasn’t totally out of it,” Rodenbucher said. “She’s come a long way. You can see the maturity in the way she carries herself. She’s really trying hard to be a leader and set an example. That’s what you look for out of a senior, whether she’s been here four years or just her freshman year and this year.”
With dual meets scheduled against Portage and Hobart this week and the LaPorte Invitational on Saturday, Rodenbucher is hopeful Hernandez and all of his gymnasts will finally get a break from the weather and be able to get into a routine.
“It’s really not even just meets that we’ve been snowed out of, it’s also practices,” Rodenbucher said. “We’ve just been kind of adapting and if we get snowed out then we just try to get it in when we can. It’s been tough. It’s hard to get the girls in any regular schedule.”
The sectional meet is less than a month away, and Rodenbucher is ready to get Hernandez in the flow of competition. He hopes the senior can help the Red Devils make a deep postseason run.
“No matter how good you are or how much you put into it, there’s always a little bit of angst,” Rodenbucher said. “She wants to get that first meet under her belt for her senior year so we can gauge exactly where she’s at and really start looking forward to the rest of the season and sectionals and hopefully further.”
For her part, Hernandez is ready to finally reach the end of the ever-extending comeback trail.
“I’m excited. I just want to go out there and do my best,” Hernandez said. “I think I am healthy and recovered from any of my injuries. I’m ready to compete and show everybody what they expect from me.”