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A forgotten element. A small hop on a landing. Less than optimum execution during a routine. Some nights a gymnastics meet can be won or lost by these developments, usually by a series of them. The team that remembers, that translates their practice into the best possible performances, enjoys the spoils of victory.
On Wednesday night at Stonewall Jackson Middle School, that team wore orange.
In the annual Hanover County Quad gymnastics meet, the one time during the regular season where Patrick Henry, Atlee, Hanover, and Lee-Davis compete head-to-head exclusively, it was the Confederates standing tall at night’s end, defeating Atlee by a mere two-tenths of one point, 136.35 to 136.15. Patrick Henry placed third with 132.2 points, followed by Hanover at 127.1.
“I didn’t do it, they did it,” Lee-Davis head coach Cy Witherow said immediately as reporters approached.
His team’s recent rivalry with Atlee has been a bit one-sided, so Witherow was pleased with the final tally.
“They’ve had our number for years, and I knew if we put a good meet together we stood a chance,” said Witherow, fully aware that Atlee was missing two competitors due to injuries. The performance gave the veteran leader strong words of advice for his squad.
“I hope these kids see this as a stepping stone and not, ‘oh, we’re there,’ because they’re not ‘there.’ There’s lots of little things we can do. Right now I can think of a point we could add to our score by doing things better, more by them doing things that they’re capable of doing, they just didn’t do tonight.”
It was truly a team effort for Lee-Davis. For example, Atlee’s Skylar Lambert won the floor exercise with a 9.25. Five Confederates registered scores ranging from 8.5 to 9.05 (by Becca Fields, who placed second), while Atlee’s next best score was an 8.45. It was Brooke Morris, though, who had the most consistent night for the Confederates, placing third in the All-Around competition at 35.4, scoring 8.0 or better in all four competitions.
“We were kind of nervous. We worked all week for this,” said Fields. “We really wanted to beat Atlee, so we achieved what we set out to do.”
Fields made her coach proud, pointing out she didn’t do her best in her floor exercise, though she scored a 9.05.
“I missed some elements that I should have had,” Fields admitted.
“We haven’t had all of our gymnasts in the same meet yet this year, and Atlee had, so we hadn’t been able to show everything we had,” added Madison Godsey, who took second on the balance beam with a score of 9.25. Lee-Davis fell to Atlee at a meet with Douglas Freeman and Henrico back on Dec. 4, 133.85 to 132.15.
As for the Raiders, Lambert was joined in the All-Around top-six finishers by Derika Banks, who finished fourth, and Haley Hulser, who placed sixth.
Individually, the night belonged to Patrick Henry senior Kristen Valasek. A year earlier, Valasek lost the All-Around title at the same meet by a razor-thin margin to Hannah Chenault. Valasek ascended to the top spot with a final score of 36.55, allowing her to win by a more comfortable .85 points over Lambert.
“I did my best. That was all I was asking for,” Valasek said of her night while looking ahead to regional competition, taking place at Deep Run High School Feb. 2.
“As a team, we’ve been working really hard. Hopefully by then we can come together as a team and do well at that meet,” Valasek added.
Valasek will be one to watch for the Central Region All-Around title. Lee-Davis will hope to capitalize on this performance as they seek a team championship. And the Atlee Raiders, the defending regional champions, hope to bounce back and return to glory.