Colonial Forge’s Richard Ponce did not lose his cool despite a pressure-packed situation.
Ponce was nearing the end of the procession to introduce the gymnasts and coaches to the small but enthusiastic crowd that attended Saturday’s Winterfest gymnastics meet at Colonial Forge High School.
When Stafford’s team entered the gymnasium, the public address announcer realized to his misfortune that the Indians’ roster was the one roster that was missing. The Indians had circled the floor mat and were lining up between two other teams when a runner from the scorer’s table brought the list.
Ponce quickly recognized each Indian gymnast and announced them without botching anyone’s name.
Unintentional slight or not, the Indians were poised for a banner effort and were determined to reverse last year’s results when the Indians finished runner-up in the blue division behind the Colonial Forge Eagles. Sparked by Jennah Chang’s three gold-medal effort, the Indians bested their county rivals, 109.875–107.7.
Mountain View benefited from the strong showings by Emily Brutski and Casey Meinert to capture the third-place trophy.
“It started off slowly and it seemed like we built up as we went along,” Stafford coach Shawn Thurston reflected afterward. “When we got to beam, they really put their heart and soul [into it] today. They stuck their routines, which is always exciting. [I could see] their smiles when they made connections, when they [did] well and they didn’t fall.’’
Sabrina Burles opened the beam competition with an 8.9 and was followed by Kaitlyn Carrick’s 8.75, Rachel Petto’s 9.2 and finally Chang’s 9.9, which tied the meet record set by Hickory’s Marissa Self in 2005. Chang also was one-tenth of a point behind the meet record on bars and wasn’t that far off the meet record in all-around, finishing with a 38.6 score.
By contrast, the Eagles struggled on beam, suffering three falls, and finished with a team score of 26.275 in the event.
“We started off a little uneasy,” said junior Rachel Petto, who was first in line for team introductions. “We were doing good, but it wasn’t our best [effort]. Once we realized we were a little behind, that was our chance to step up our game.
“[In] every meet, if we all stay up on beam, we get a cookie cake, so we were really aiming for that,’’ she said.
Commenting on Chang’s contributions to the team’s success, Petto said: “She really leads by example with her high scores. She pushes us to do better and to try harder skills. We always watch her and she’s trying new things.’’
Chang admitted winning all-around was one of her goals after finishing second behind Jessica Addo of Colonial Forge a year ago.
“It was a really cool experience with everybody a little more diverse than our usual meets,” she said. “I like the pressure [of competing in all-around]; it gives you more of an edge.’’
Commenting on the junior’s performance, Thurston said: “We change her routine on bars so she would start at a 10.0 [before deductions] and she was really excited to try it. This was the place to do it and she enjoyed it.’’
Besides the mishaps on beam, the host Eagles weathered a bit of misfortune to open the meet when vaulter Mackenzie Watterson pulled ligaments in her left ankle on her second landing and will likely miss the rest of the season, according to head coach Lisa Rankin.
Led by Addo and Lexy Holbrook, Colonial Forge managed to stay close to Stafford for most of the competition. “We definitely did not have our best meet today, but overall, the girls stepped up and did what I asked them to do,” Rankin said.
Brutski set several personal or seasonal bests at the meet en route to finishing second in all-around. “I woke up this morning and I knew the meet was on and I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to get my skills done, I’m going to have a ton of fun,’ and [I] had my teammates cheering and screaming and that’s what helped me be positive.
“We are extremely deep this year. We have improved leaps and bounds. Since last year, our team scores are way higher. If we can keep this up, the rest of our season will be so great,’’ she admitted.
All of the Stafford County teams except Brooke Point will compete in Wednesday’s meet at North Stafford.
Team scores: 1. Stafford 109.875; 2. Colonial Forge 107.7; 3. Mountain View 106.85; 4. Salem 103.775; 5. Patriot 100.7; 6. Great Bridge ‘A’ 96.625.
Vault: 1. Jessica Addo (CF) 9.5; 2. Emily Brutski (MV) 9.45; 3. Madison Lieurance (Sa) 9.275; 4. Jennah Chang (St) 9.2; 5. Casey Meinert (MV) 9.15; 6. Lexy Holbrook (CF) 9.025.
Bars: 1. Chang (St) 9.8; 2. Brutski (MV) 9.275; 3. Holbrook (CF) 9.2; 4. Rachel Hunter (St) 8.95; 5. Lieurance (Sa) 8.875; 6. Jasmine Belmar (Sa) 8.825.
Beam: 1. Chang (St) 9.9; 2. Brutski (MV) 9.3; 3. Rachel Petto (St) 9.2; 4. Sabrina Surles (MV) 8.9; t-5. Addo (CF) 8.875; t-5. Holbrook (CF) 8.875.
Floor: 1. Addo (CF) 9.725; t-2. Chang (St) 9.7; 2-t. Belmar (Sa.) 9.7; 4. Brutski (MV) 9.675; 5. Holbrook (CF) 9.625; 6. Liuerance (Sa) 9.45.
All-around: 1. Chang (St) 38.6; 2. Brutski (MV) 37.7; 3. Holbrook (CF) 36.725; 4. Addo (CF) 36.55; 5. Liurance (Sa) 36.275; 6. Meinert (MV) 34.9.
Team scores: 1. Deep Run 100.625; 2. Great Bridge ‘B’ 95.025; 3. Brooke Point 57.75; 4. North Stafford 34.225.
Vault: 1. Alexis Lingeman (BP) 8.8; 2. Jessie Young (DR) 8.775; 3. Catherine Larkin (DR) 8.675; 4. Ashley Kohl (BP) 8.6; 5. Megan Fair (DR) 8.2; 6. Kira Brittingham (GB) 8.175.
Bars: 1. M. Fair (DR) 8.45; 2. Caitlin Fair (DR) 8.125; 3. Becca Ellinger (GB) 8.075; 4. Phoebe Lake (DR) 7.95; 5. McKenna Rutledge (GB) 7.475; Young (DR) 7.15.
Beam: 1. Ellinger (GB) 8.8; 2. Macdy Gordon (GB) 8.65; 3. Lake (DR) 8.2; 4. M. Fair (DR) 8.175; 5. Lexi Long (DR) 8.075; 6. Catherine Larkin (DR) 7.775.
Floor: 1. Haley Frye (DR) 8.925; 2. Gordon (GB) 8.775; 3. Brittingham (GB) 8.675; 4. Long (DR) 8.55; 5. Lake (DR) 8.525; 6. M. Fair (DR) 8.3.
All-around: 1. M. Fair (DR) 33.125; 2. Lake (DR) 32.8; 3. Alexis Lingerman (BP) 29.4.