MUNCIE — Longtime Columbus North athletics trainer Steve Souder has been sporting a mustache since about 1975.
It’s about to come off.
Souder had promised the North gymnastics team that if it won a state championship, he would shave his mustache. The Bull Dogs responded to the offer with gusto, obliterating the state scoring record en route to victory at Ball State’s Worthen Arena on Saturday afternoon.
North finished with 114.85 points, easily eclipsing the old mark of 114.225 set by Valparaiso in 2008. The Bull Dogs also shredded their previous school record of 114.2.
Valpo, which had won the previous two state titles, finished second with 113.25 points for its ninth straight top-two finish. Columbus East placed sixth with a score of 108.95.
In addition to the team triumph, North also claimed the lion’s share of the individual honors.
Sophomore Claire Thompson was the day’s big winner, taking first in the all-around with a score of 38.4 while also emerging victorious on the uneven bars (9.7) and balance beam (9.675).
Senior Katrina May was second on the floor exercise, closing the event with a 9.625. Just minutes later, she was presented with the Mildred M. Ball Mental Attitude Award, which is presented annually to a senior finals participant deemed to have best demonstrated mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability.
Junior Ashley Holliday, who took home a state crown in the uneven bars last year, nearly added another individual title, tying for second in the vault.
Buoyed by four outstanding performances from each, the Bull Dogs won the team championship going away, bringing home the top prize for the first time since North won the first two state meets in 1973 and 1974.
“Our top three kids went 12 for 12 routines today,” North co-coach Sandy Freshour said. “They just all had a good day, and that doesn’t happen very often.”
North had a fantastic opening rotation, totaling a 28.925 on the vault to take an early lead. Holliday led the way with her 9.775, followed by May at 9.625 and Thompson at 9.525.
The Bull Dogs extended their advantage in the second rotation, putting up a score of 28.725 on the uneven bars.
Freshour said that the team wasn’t allowing itself to get caught up in watching the score.
“I am ready to have a heart attack the whole meet anyway,” she stated, “so watching scores would only have made it worse.”
By the time the Bull Dogs got to the floor, however, there were no worries. Thompson, Holliday and May all turned in high-scoring routines, enabling North to keep stretching out its margin of victory.
East, meanwhile, put itself in an early hole with some struggles on the uneven bars. Adi Minor finished up with a score of 9.525, but the Olympians’ total for the first rotation was just 26.675, in seventh and well back of the lead pack.
Minor, who came in with the state’s best all-around score of the year (38.725), took herself out of championship contention with a fall on the balance beam. She scored a 9.05 on the event, then followed with a 9.425 on the floor and 9.725 on the vault to finish with 37.725, good for a tie for sixth place.
For Columbus North, the state championship trophy was clearly the big prize, but the girls were also fairly excited about the prospect of helping Souder expose his upper lip to the world.
“And we get to push him in the pool, too,” Holliday noted gleefully.
Co-coach Bob Arthur, though, wasn’t quite as thrilled about cashing in Souder’s offer.
“I don’t know if I’ll like him that way,” Arthur joked. “He might not be as pretty as he is right now.”
That remains to be seen. But on Saturday, everything was beautiful as far as the Bull Dogs were concerned.
“I don’t think I could think of anything better for us to happen today,” May said. “Everybody we love is here, we had a great time together, this team, we’ve just gotten along so well this year, and I could not ask for a better way to end my career.”