By ROB WITHAM
Once each season they come together, the four county high school gymnastics teams, to compete, to root each other on, and to do their best for their school.
Last Wednesday night at Stonewall Jackson Middle School, the meet celebrated the consistency of one performer, the perseverance of another, and the coming together of the gymnastics community to support one of their own whose night did not end the way anyone wanted it to.
The final scores showed Lee-Davis on top in team competition, while Patrick Henry senior Sierra Baxter again captured the individual all-around title, taking the crown with a score of 34.2, including an 8.9 to win the floor exercise. Several gymnasts had good performances for their teams, but talk coming out of the evening centered on two participants, one who made a triumphant return, and another whose night was cut short.
In the second rotation as Patrick Henry performed on floor, a gymnast fell during her routine, collapsing in pain. The meet was temporarily suspended as trainers and coaches aided her. Moments later, the meet continued. It’s always difficult for a team to move on while worried about a teammate. But Baxter and the Patriots did so, forging on through floor and the rest of their rotations.
“I was very proud of them. After it happened, I took them aside and told them, calm down, relax. And they managed to do it,” noted new Patrick Henry head coach Madison Bray.
Baxter, who struggled in Patrick Henry’s opening discipline, the beam, had a bad feeling going into the evening that she couldn’t understand, until her teammate fell.
“I’m shaky before a meet, but never that shaky. I just kind of felt sick,” Baxter remembered.
Patrick Henry placed third overall at 113.8 points, just ahead of Hanover, who scored 112.3 points. For the Atlee Raiders, who placed second overall at 127.05, the night was about the continued return of Elizabeth Bosley. Bosley, who has been in competitive gymnastics for over a decade, went through the pain of watching from the sideline all of last year due to a knee injury.
With the knee back to one hundred percent, Bosley returned to action in Atlee’s opening meet a week previous at Chickahominy Middle School. At Stonewall Wednesday, her comeback continued to unfold, scoring 8.8 on vault to tie for the individual win in that discipline with Brittney Blowers of Lee-Davis, helping her to a second place finish in the individual all-around at 34.1, just a tenth of a point behind Baxter.
“I kinda was having some pain during warm-ups, but other than that, I was just here to have fun, and I did,” Bosley explained. “It’s been a big part of my life since I was three years old.”
Bosley scored 8.7 on beam, and 8.3 on both floor and bars to help the Raiders come close to knocking off Lee-Davis. The Confederates quickly took the team title with big performances from Blowers, who tied for the win on bars with Madison Klump of Hanover with an 8.6 and tied for third on beam with an 8.55 to finish third in the all around at 33.95, and Sydney Owens, who took fourth in all around at 32.85, winning the beam competition with an 8.8 and tying for third in both the on both floor (8.0) and vault (8.6).
Each team has its goals, and challenges, as this season progresses. Lee-Davis seeks to improve and peak come February, when they’ll have to face the likes of Douglas Freeman, Deep Run, and others in the new Region 5B, where Atlee also resides and looks to make its move, too. Maddie Rich, who placed sixth for the Raiders at the all-around level, can help provide depth.
For the Patriots and Hawks, their assignments are clear. Patrick Henry, with a thin roster to start the season, must forge on with one less participant for now. Lily Voekler and Ambra Eddleton, who both placed in a fifth place tie on vault at 8.4, have opportunities to step up and aid Baxter in team scoring.
Hanover is very young. Their best score in the meet was Holly Johnson’s 8.6 on vault, good for a tie for third place, and the aforementioned 8.6 on bars by Klump. The duo will need to grow quickly for head coach Caitlin Berry before region competition come February.
The Patriots and Hawks both compete in the new Region A of the combined Classes 1-4, which includes Great Bridge, Dominion, Heritage of Leesburg, Kettle Run, and Loudoun County. Region tournaments must take place between February 3 and 10 with state championships scheduled for February 16 and 17.
But for now, it’s all about practice, and repetitions, and getting better, as all teams continue using upcoming meets to get ready for that end of season showtime. For Bosley, it’s about enjoying the journey again, and helping her team.
“I think they were really excited because last year we struggled not placing very well in the team score,” Bosley said of the Raiders’ reaction to coming close to team victory. “I think we were happy to get second.”
One step, one leap, or twist, or turn, at a time, for all of our gymnasts in Hanover County.