Columbus North put together at least three mistake-free routines on every event last year to upset two-time defending champion Valparaiso and win the state gymnastics title.
Can the second-ranked Bull Dogs do it again?
The Bull Dogs will try to make it back-to-back titles when nine teams converge on Ball State’s Worthen Arena for the state finals at 1 p.m. today. No. 4 Columbus East also hopes to be in the mix.
“I think we have as good a chance as any team up there,” North co-coach Bob Arthur said. “There’s no dominant team scores that I’ve seen that have been consistent. I’ve seen all the teams get beat at one time or another, except for us. At the regional, none of the scores that were posted by any of the teams up north are just wildly over what we could do.”
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Top-ranked Valpo (113.15) and No. 3 Chesterton (112.4) posted the state’s top two regional scores last week. Co-No. 6 Fort Wayne Dwenger had a 111.275, and the Bull Dogs posted a 111.05.
Chesterton has the top score this season, a 114.175. Valpo has had a 113.4, while North has put up a 112.9 and East has scored a 111.15.
“You really can’t totally go on scores because you’re being judged by totally different judges,” East coach Nancy Kirshman said. “The northern judges judge one way. Our judges judge another way. Until everybody matches up head to head, you really don’t know.”
The Olympians have another X-factor in Adi Minor. The junior has the state’s best scores on the vault, bars, beam and all-around and the second-best score on the floor this season, but sprained an ankle while warming up for East’s final regular-season meet and competed only on the bars in the sectional and regional.
With Minor planning to do all four events today, along with senior Seena Greiwe and sophomores Taylor Gaskill and Abby Lewis, the Olympians’ goal is a top-four finish, which would put them on the medal stand.
The Bull Dogs, meanwhile, have the defending bars, beam and all-around state champion in junior Claire Thompson and the 2015 bars champ and last year’s fifth-place all-around finisher in senior Ashley Holliday leading the way. Freshman Sami Heathcote has come close to approaching the scores put up by Katrina May, who was the state runner-up in the all-around as a senior last year.
“We’ve had the consistency for the most part at the 1 and 2 spots, but the kids trying to fit into those scores that Katrina posted for us last year, they have worked so hard,” North co-coach Sandy Freshour said. “Consistency wise, we’re not there yet.”
The Bull Dogs have been using freshman Alayne Davis as their leadoff gymnast on the bars and junior Kaitlyn Calandro as the leadoff on the beam. Davis did the vault in the sectional, and Calandro did in the regional. Davis, freshman Ashley Niebrugge and sophomore Tova Edwards were battling for the leadoff spot on floor this week.
With their best scores this season added together, North would score a 114.8.
“I wouldn’t say I’m confident with a repeat, but I’m hopeful,” Freshour said. “Do we all know that if we hit our routines, it’s possible? That’s a good place to be.”
“I think we’re capable again, but it’s whatever team that’s going to hit that day is the team that’s going to walk out with the gold,” Arthur said.
Gymnastics State Finals
When: 1 p.m. today (opening ceremonies at 12:30 p.m.)
Where: Worthen Arena, Ball State University
Teams: Columbus East, Columbus North, Bloomington South, Chesterton, Fort Wayne Carroll, Fort Wayne Dwenger, Homestead, Merrillville, Valparaiso