COLUMBUS East and Columbus North have the same goal in mind for today’s Gymnastics State Finals, and if regional scores are any indication, only one will reach that goal.
Three teams — Valparaiso, Portage and Fort Wayne Dwenger — put up scores above 111 in last week’s regional action. East (108.0) and North (107.325) had the fourth- and fifth-best regional team scores and could be fighting for a top-four finish and a spot on the medals stand at Ball State’s Worthen Arena.
“It’s tough, but I think they are very capable of finishing in fourth place if we have a stellar meet,” East coach Nancy Kirshman said. “We have a few things that we haven’t brought out of the hat that we’re planning on doing that increases that difficulty just a little bit if it works.”
The Olympians, who are making their first state appearance since 2010, are led by senior Daran Brady, the regional all-around champion. Sophomore Emily Clancy won the vault at the regional, while senior Molly Boggs and sophomores Jaycie Jaggers and Michelle Wesolowski provided support.
The Bull Dogs are a balanced squad with seniors Chelsea Wieland and Danielle McDermott and freshman Katrina May taking turns as the team’s top all-around gymnast this season. North also has had big routines in the postseason from junior Megan Heathcote and sophomore Kaitlyn Barnes.
“We have five great all-around gymnasts that are all prepared to do the best they can do for Columbus North (today), and they have worked very, very hard this week,” North coach Sandy Freshour said. “They have a lot of resilience, and they have a lot of respect for each other. They remind me that it’s fun.”
The Bull Dogs’ fate may hinge on the availability of McDermott, who sprained an ankle in warmups for the sectional. McDermott did not compete in the sectional and did only the bars in the regional. She could add the beam and possibly the floor today.
“We’re not sure, but she commented (Wednesday) night, ‘I think I’m on my way back,’ and that’s the best thing we’ve heard in two weeks,” Freshour said. “She’s a trooper, and we’re doing the mental routines it takes to be ready when the foot is ready. We’re getting as prepared as we can, and we’re being very conservative with not doing too much too fast. Danielle is a pro, and we have to be very careful to protect her health.
“I don’t really know if we’ll get to use Danielle in all four events, but I’m excited for where she is at,” she said. “I’m excited for Chelsea, too, because she has worked hard as a co-captain to get this team where it is.”
Besides the medals, both teams have a little extra incentive to finish in the top four. If they do, they’ll get a team picture in their school’s Wall of Fame.
“I’d like to see them have their picture up on the wall, too,” Kirshman said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had one, and I think we have a chance of some individuals. But it’s not the end of the world. Their goal was to get to the state meet with no regrets, and they’ve done that, so now, everything you go for is icing on the cake.”