ELKHART — It was a banner night of sorts for both the Elkhart Central and Wawasee gymnastics teams. Under the cover of The Club roof amidst the bustle of the Elkhart Industrial Park, both teams were as productive as they have been all season in a 108-99.5 win for the Blue Blazers over the Lady Warriors.
For both clubs Thursday night, the team scores were season highs. And for both clubs, the point totals followed self-appointed disappointing weekends at the Lakeland Invitational just days prior.
“This is huge in the respect that this is part of the mental preparation,” stated Elkhart Central head coach Kathy Krauter, whose team last Saturday in Lagrange finished sixth overall. “They have to be able to taste that victory, but they also have to go way down deep into that abyss of failure.
“Now they know, when you have a team like the one we have this year and goes up and down, we normally do very well at sectionals. They know what its like to be up here now, they don’t want to go back to how they felt (at Lakeland).”
Krauter’s team, which celebrated senior day Thursday before hosting the Lady Warriors, saw Holly Lehman bask in the glow of her day in the proverbial sun despite a pelting rain outside. Lehman threw a season-high 9.7 on the beam that had her land multiple back flips and a flawless dismount. Teammate Libby Yeakey also had a sparkling beam routine that flashed a 9.6 on the scorecard.
The tandem also tied for first on the floor with 9.5s with teammate Madison McArt right behind at 9.4. Lehman was also tops on the bars at 9.3 to grossly outdistance all other competitors and began her night with another tie with Yeakey on vault, scoring 9.0 for runner-up honors.
“This is not a culmination of a high school career, this a culmination of her entire life,” Krauter said of Lehman. “Being a club gymnast, a high school gymnast. She is 18 years old and she just knows what she needs to do to make it happen. It’s just years and years and years of training.”
The big scores weren’t just reserved for Central gymnasts as Wawasee also posted several season bests. Leading the parade was a 9.2 on vault for Kim Garber, the only time in her career the Warrior senior has eclipsed the nines on the vault. Taylor Busse and Ashleigh Frecker also had big vault scores for Wawasee with matching 8.9s, both easily career-highs.
Garber would also garner an 8.9 on floor and 8.8 on beam to saddle up a 33.0 in the all-around tally. Emily Allen also saw her scores rise, posting an 8.7 on floor and a personal-best 9.1 on beam.
Lehman and Yeakey were one-two in the all-around scoring, posting 37.5 and 34.5 respectively. Allen was third at 34.0 and McArt right behind at 33.9.
“This is very encouraging for us,” said Wawasee head coach Nika Prather, whose club was seventh at Lakeland and only had one gymnast crack the top 10 in any category. “Sometimes the girls just set their mind to trying to score a 96. Then this happens and the girls realize ‘Hey, we are that good!’ Mentally, sometimes that’s all it takes to put them where they need to be.”
Wawasee will look to keep its competitive fire stoked when it returns home on Valentine’s Day for a home meet with Huntington North. The meet itself has been a circled one on the calendar for Prather, who feels the timing is a good mile marker for her club as the sectional draws near. Central will travel to East Noble on Monday.
“Realistically, we have been working on new skills on the vault, so we had hoped to see those scores rise a little,” Prather said. “We’ll take a night like this and use it to carry on to next week and see if we can keep it up.”