MUNCIE — I can barely stand up straight on solid ground, so the idea of trying to perform any kind of gymnastic move on a strip just 3 inches wide is too much for my mind to even process.
The balance beam is a cruel place. The margin for error is close to zero, and missing a step or a landing by mere millimeters can ruin anybody’s chances of victory.
At Saturday’s state gymnastics meet, Columbus North refused to let the beam get in its way.
Katrina May, who had two falls on the event during last weekend’s regional, nailed her routine, scoring a 9.575 for the Bull Dogs. Ashley Holliday followed with a solid 9.3, and Claire Thompson capped North’s third rotation with a 9.675, the highest beam score of the day to that point.
Having escaped without a major mishap, the Bull Dogs were well on their way to a state championship, the third in school history and the first in 42 years.
“Beam is a critter, and anything can happen at any time with any of the girls,” North co-coach Bob Arthur said. “So once we stayed on at least two and then the third routine, we pretty much knew at that point that it was going to be pretty tough for anybody to catch up with us.”
But the beam wasn’t as kind to everybody Saturday.
Columbus East sophomore Adi Minor came into the day with dreams of winning the individual all-around title; her regional score of 38.725 was the highest in Indiana this year.
Even if she couldn’t match that number, Minor had hoped to at least be in contention — but her chances went up in smoke when she fell off the beam in her second event. She settled for a sixth-place tie.
According to Minor, her mistakes were much more mental than physical. After scoring a bit lower than she expected on the uneven bars, the East sophomore wasn’t in the right frame of mind heading on to the beam.
“I let the little things get to me, and that’s just where I really messed up today,” Minor explained. “I should have just kept my head up after bars.”
Gymnastics is a mind game in general, and with the beam in particular, it’s a game of inches.
On Saturday, Columbus North handled those challenges better than anybody. With the exception of a brief flirtation with danger during Holliday’s routine — the junior momentarily weebled and wobbled but didn’t fall down — the Bull Dogs cruised through the most nerve-wracking of events.
And they did so more easily than many of us can handle a walk to the kitchen.
Ryan O’Leary is the sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.