Severna Park gymnastics coach Bonnie Habicht knew only one thing was stopping Jesse Whyte from reaching his potential last year.
"His problem was confidence more than anything," Habicht said of Whyte, 15, now a sophomore at Severna Park. "He was so much in awe of [Annapolis'] Jason Hill and Dominic Boardley and Peter Lombard. This year, they were out of the competitions, and as the season progressed, he became more and more confident in himself."
Habicht's top female gymnast, senior Tracie Miller, had a different obstacle to overcome -- injuries. And, like Whyte, she vaulted over adversity to win the county all-around championship.
For their accomplishments, Whyte and Miller were selected as the Anne Arundel County Sun's Male and Female Gymnasts of the Year, while Habicht was chosen Coach of the Year.
Habicht proved you can teach a young gymnast new tricks by working with Whyte to improve his skills, while also making sure he didn't let the reputations of others deter him from reaching his vast potential.
Lombard, last year's all-around champion, moved to Florida, while Hill and Boardley missed most of the season with injuries. The duo returned for the county meet and placed second and third, respectively, to Whyte, who won the rings (7.6) and floor exercise (8.6), tied for first with Hill in the vault (8.5), and took second in the parallel bars (7.1).
"When he met [Hill and Boardley] in the counties, I told him not to worry about what they were doing and to do the best he possibly could," Habicht said. "And he even surprised himself.
"Last year, I was really scared to throw in a couple new tricks, and my routines were pretty watered down," said Whyte, who won four all-around titles during the regular season and took 17 firsts and 11 seconds. "This year, I did a lot of working out at the Naval Academy, and I would come into practice and work in here and get a lot better."
Whyte, who won the vault at last year's county tournament, made a third-place showing at the state-regional meet on May 12 at Hammond High School in Howard County. He placed second on the rings and vault, third on the pommel horse and fourth on the parallel bars, high bar and floor exercise.
With a renewed sense of confidence and ever-improving form and skills, Whyte should only get better in the coming years.
"Next year, my goal is to get a 50 in the all-around," said Whyte, whose high score this season was 43.1.
"He's ready now," Habicht said. "He knows what he's capable of and he's ready to push toward next year."
Habicht can look forward to Whyte's return next season, but the fifth-year coach is losing what she called "probably the best gymnast we've ever had coming out of this school" in Miller, who won three of four events to take the county all-around title and lead Severna Park to a first-place finish.
Miller, who sat out last year's county meet when questions arose concerning her eligibility, took first in the floor exercise (9.3), balance beam (9.45) and uneven bars (9.4), and placed second to Meade's Mollie Bell in the vault (8.65).
And she did so with an injured back and left ankle that limited her practice time in the weeks leading up to the meet.
"With my ankle, you can tape it, but my back you can't do anything for," said Miller, 18, who won the all-around title in all three of her meets during the regular season and claimed 12 firsts. "The amount of pain depended on the event."
Habicht said, "She's a tough kid, a real competitor."
That was most evident at the state meet on May 20 at Oakland Mills in Howard County, when Miller placed third in the all-around despite the ailments.
"She saw the others warming up and knew there was no holding back," Habicht said. "But in the first event, she caught her heel on the low bar and fell, and it affected her the rest of the competition, especially on the floor and vault."
Miller, the defending state-regional champion in all-around, was advised by her coach and parents to skip the vault, "but she's a senior and she didn't want to be looking back, wondering what could have been," Habicht said.
Ignoring the pain, she took second on the vault, third on the uneven bars and balance beam and fourth on the floor.
"I surprised myself," said Miller, who will attend the University of Rhode Island on a gymnastics scholarship. "I knew a lot of the other girls from private teams and they're really good.
"You always expect to win nothing, then you win."
Habicht's girls placed fifth in the states -- the highest finish for a county entry. But Habicht seemed most surprised by their county championship, especially after losing Jenny Banks to graduation.
"We did not expect to win counties at all," she said. "I thought Chesapeake would win it, and I thought it would be close between Arundel, Old Mill and us for second. We just didn't worry about it. We went in and tried to do the best we could to improve our scores, and we managed to do well."
County gymnastics meet winners
All-around: Jesse Whyte (Severna Park), 43.0
Rings: Jesse Whyte (Severna Park), 7.6
Vault: (tie) Jesse Whyte (Severna Park) and Jason Hill (Annapolis), 8.5
High bar: Dominic Boardley (Annapolis), 7.0
Pommel horse: Dominic Boardley (Annapolis), 7.4
Parallel bars: Vydas Dulys (Old Mill), 8.0
Floor exercise: Jesse Whyte (Severna Park), 8.6
All-around: Tracie Miller (Severna Park), 36.80
Floor exercise: Tracie Miller (Severna Park), 9.3
Vault: Mollie Bell (Meade), 8.75
Uneven bars: Tracie Miller (Severna Park), 9.4
Balance beam: Tracie Miller (Severna Park), 9.45