Six Seniors Compete for Last Time in Gold Dome Saturday
Friday, February 12, 2016

SHREVEPORT, La. – Senior day. It is a joyous time to celebrate all the accolades and achievements of a dedicated class who gave four years to a collegiate athletic program. It is also bittersweet, as it is the swan song for a group in their last home competition. Saturday night against Texas Woman’s and 35th-ranked Iowa State in the Gold Dome is no exception for a group of six seniors who have given so much to Centenary gymnastics.

Ronni Bear, a 2016 All-Conference Scholar Athlete, has a career-best 9.475 on floor and 8.850 on bars. Also academically, she was named to the Dean’s List in the spring of 2014. Majoring in business administration, Ronni plans to further her education after graduation and hopes to return to Australia and become a white water rafting instructor.

“Ronni is a light in this world,” explained head gymnastics coach Jackie Fain. “Once you get to know Ronni, you can’t help but love her. During the beginning of her sophomore season, Ronni was really coming on and she was competing on bars and floor.  Early in the season, she suffered a very severe injury and was not supposed to be able to do gymnastics again, but fought her way back through hard work and pure determination.  I’m not sure if even her teammates know how hard she worked after her injury to be able to come back and participate in this sport again. She loves gymnastics, and she loves her team. 

Added coach Fain, “She has fought a very difficult battle to get to where she is today, and I am in awe of what she has done.  Through it all, she has worked to stay positive and motivated, inspiring those around her to be better.

With the gymnastics team, Ronni’s favorite memory is fighting back after the knee injury.

“I remember completing a bar routine for the first time after my knee injury. It's an indescribable feeling to have your teammates storm the mat after a routine and be proud of you for overcoming an obstacle,” said Bear.

Megan Desjardins has been a solid competitor on three events in every Ladies gymnastics meet this season. She has career highs on bars of 9.500 and 9.750 beam this season, as well as a career best 9.675 on floor. An Academic All-Scholar Athlete for the Midwest Independent Conference in 2015, she is majoring in psychology at Centenary. Her favorite memory is traveling to Alaska with the gymnastics team, and the Ladies sliding down a snow hill on their backs.

“Megan has improved tremendously over her four years at Centenary,” explained coach Fain. “Coming in, she was a shy girl, who did not believe her gymnastics skills would be good enough. She has worked hard over the years, has blossomed into quite the performer, and is competing on three events.  Megan’s gymnastics has a graceful quality to it, and she combines it with a certain amount of power you wouldn’t expect.  She has been a staple in the beam lineup for three years, and added bars and floor to her repertoire last season. Megan has become a strong and confident young woman during her time at Centenary.”

A staple on bars this season, Casie Hood has recently been inserted in the vault lineup in her senior season. A 2016 All-Conference Scholar Athlete, she is majoring in business administration at Centenary. Upon graduation, Casie plans to attend nursing school and become a nurse practitioner. Her goal in life is to spend every day making people smile, preferably babies. Like Megan, her favorite memory is the trip to Alaska last season and sliding down the snowy hills on her back, holding hands with the rest of the team.

She holds career bests of 9.375 on vault, 9.400 on bars and 8.400 on beam.

“What is there to say about show-Case? She is the entertainer, the comedian, the performer! Casie can make anyone laugh at any time,” exclaimed coach Fain. “She has been a joy to all of us. Casie has worked hard over the years to get into the bar lineup and stay there. She is a consistent competitor, and you know you can count on her to make her routine when it counts! She is one of the most adaptable gymnasts I have ever known; she is always willing to step up and do what is needed, no matter the circumstance.

Added coach Fain, “She has been tossed into line-up on different events many times, and she is always ready and willing to do what she can for the team. Her fun-loving attitude and her strong work ethic have made coaching her a real treat.”

Kellie has been a staple on vault, beam and floor in 2016 for the Ladies. An All-Conference performer on floor in 2015, Kellie has garnered USAG Academic All-American honors the last two seasons and was an All-Conference Scholar Athlete the past three seasons. At Centenary, Kellie is majoring in business administration and has made the Dean’s list four times. She was also an NCGCA Scholar Athlete for the 2014-15 seasons.

A member of Zeta Tau Alpha, she plans to live in Shreveport with her best friends and pursue a job in business management. Kellie’s favorite memory is also the four days in Alaska last season competing, playing in the snow, and sliding down mountains.

Kellie holds career bests of 9.725 on vault, 9.800 on beam and 9.850 on floor.

“Kellie is such a powerful gymnast; she can literally fly through the air,” exclaimed coach Fain. “Kellie has been a major contributor on three events consistently throughout her career at Centenary. She proved her competitiveness her freshman year, as she broke into the line-ups and never looked back.  She has become a solid, consistent performer. She loves a challenge, and will rise to meet it. Her style of gymnastics is exciting to watch, and she is a crowd favorite. She has consistently improved over her time at Centenary, both in the gym and in the classroom.

“Kellie is an example of what you can do when you make your mind up to do it,” added coach Fain.

Stephanie Strickler will finish her Ladies gymnastics career with numerous accolades. In competition, Stephanie earned Second Team All-American laurels both on bars and in the all around in 2013. In 2014, she finished Second Team All-Conference in the all around. However, she impressively won All-Conference Scholar Athlete all four seasons and was a USA Gymnastics Academic All-American in both 2014 and 2015.

Stephanie’s career bests include a 9.700 on vault, 9.850 on bars, 9.800 on beam, 9.775 on floor and 38.900 in the all around.

“After having stellar freshman and sophomore campaigns, becoming a two-time All-American and All-conference athlete, Stephanie went through some struggles the last two years,” Fain said. “She has a dogged determination, as proven by the fact she is competing right now with a completely torn ACL.  She is willing to give everything she has to finish her career on a high note, and she will do anything for her team.  Stephanie has always led by example with her work ethic both in the gym and in school; she is a true scholar athlete.  Her calm demeanor combined with her competitive fire always makes her a force to be reckoned with on the competition floor.”

Stephanie has appeared on the Dean’s List in 2012, ’13 and ’15. Her sophomore and junior seasons, she was the gymnastics representative on SAAC and was a Captain of the team her junior season. She is majoring in psychology, and has already been accepted into the graduate program at East Tennessee State and intends to get her master’s degree in special education.

According to Stephanie, her favorite gymnastics memory was Centenary hosting both conference and nationals her freshman year. “I absolutely love competing in the Gold Dome, so this was an amazing opportunity,” said Strickler. “By the time nationals rolled around, no one really expected us to be contenders or to make it to day two. We ended up bumping one of the teams and placed third on day two. That was the year our team had a sort of Cinderella story. It was an incredible feeling to have the hard work from all year long finally pay off, and the fact it was at home, was icing on the cake.”

The final senior who will be recognized Saturday is Noel Stubbs. A 2015 All-American on vault, she was a All-Conference Scholar Athlete in 2015. Majoring in biology at Centenary, Noel plans to move in with her best friends, attend nursing school and become a surgical nurse upon graduation.

Her favorite memory mirrors Stephanie's in helping the Ladies making the finals of the second day in 2013, recording a season high team score in the process.

“Noel certainly would rival anyone who has come through this program as the most improved since her freshman year,” explained coach Fain. “ She has learned many new skills since she arrived on Centenary’s campus.  In particular, would be her vault. She had to learn a whole new category of vault, and she ended up becoming an All-American on that event last year.  Noel is such a beautiful gymnast to watch with her long lines, and the way she carries herself.  She has grown so much in her time here; both as a gymnast, student and person.  It has been such a pleasure to watch her mature into the young woman she has become.”

Centenary will host Texas Woman’s and nationally-ranked Iowa State Saturday, February 13, at the Gold Dome. The meet is set to begin at 6 p.m.