CONNERSVILLE — In the days leading up to Saturday’s Connersville Regional, Columbus North co-coach Bob Arthur talked about how he thought the Bull Dog gymnasts had a favorable rotation draw.
Instead of starting on the beam, as it did in the sectional, North began on the bars. Columbus East, which beat the Bull Dogs in the sectional, had to start on the floor and finish on the beam, which is widely regarded as the toughest rotation.
The third-ranked Olympians led for three rotations, but No. 5 North came through with a strong performance on the vault, while East had a couple of falls on the beam. That enabled the Bull Dogs to overtake the Olympians 112.125 to 111.325 and defend their regional title.
“I thought we’d be a little better starting off on bars,” Arthur said. “We’re more consistent on that event, so it probably got the girls in a little more comfortable spot to start off with. “Then beam, we had three no-fall routines, which has only happened a couple of times this year.”
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Both North and East will make a return trip to the Gymnastics State Finals, which are at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ball State’s Worthen Arena. Seymour scored a 102.05 to claim the third-and-final team qualifying spot.
The Bull Dogs’ score was its best of the season.
“It’s all about their confidence,” North co-coach Sandy Freshour said. “If they can believe in themselves like we believe in them as coaches, there’s a lot more they can do. It was a good day for us. We needed this.”
East senior Adi Minor won the vault (9.8), bars (9.85) and beam (9.65) and finished second on the floor (9.65) to claim the all-around championship with a 38.975. But she would rather have had the team title.
“It was a bittersweet day,” Minor said. “I wasn’t focusing on me winning. I wanted the team to do their very best, and they did that today. Ending on beam, we had a couple mishaps, but it happens, and next week at state, we just have to throw what we know and do our very best.”
North senior Claire Thompson edged Minor on the floor, winning with a 9.7. Thompson also finished second on the bars (9.7) and beam (9.5) and took third on he vault (9.55).
That enabled Thompson to finish second in the all-around with a season-best 38.55.
“We really focused on the things that we needed more improvement on, and we really worked on staying calm,” Thompson said. “On beam, we worked on lots of routines to gain confidence and know that we can do our routines and hit them.”
North sophomore Sami Heathcote finished third in the all-around with a 37.75. She was second on the vault (9.6) and third on the bars (9.25), beam (9.525) and floor (9.375).
Heathcote’s vault and all-around scores were personal bests.
“I was feeling pretty good on all of my events,” Heathcote said. “I think we did very well.”
Tova Edwards finished seventh in the all-around with a personal-best 35.3 for the Bull Dogs. She also took eighth on the floor (9.075).
North’s Ashley Niebrugge placed fifth on the beam (9.1). Emma Cooper was eighth on the vault (9.175).
“Sami and Claire have been just tough all season long, but we’ve had to rely on specialists for those third and fourth scores, and today, they stepped up and did what they needed to do,” Arthur said.
East’s Taylor Gaskill finished fourth in the all-around with a 36.175 and fifth on the vault (9.325), bars (9.0) and floor (9.325). Taylen Lane tied for fifth on the all-around (35.5) and took sixth on the vault (9.275) and eighth on the bars (8.775). Abby Lewis was sixth on the bars (9.85) and beam (9.075) and eighth in the all-around (35.275).
The Olympians led 84.025 to 83.85 going into the final rotation. The Bull Dogs closed with a 28.325 on the vault, while East had two falls — only one of which came from one of its three scorers and counted — in its 27.3 beam score.
“We’re a beam team, and we made mistakes,” East coach Nancy Kirshman said. “It’s either going to make you or break you, and today, it didn’t work. You have to be tougher than that. Had we performed what we were supposed to do, we would be taking the (regional) plate home.”
The Olympians beat North in an early-season dual meet and again at last week’s East Sectional.
“The third time is the charm when you’re trying to beat people three times in a row,” Kirshman said. “I sort of had a feeling this might happen, and it did.”