If Hamlet were a gymnastics coach, he may begrudgingly proclaim, “To beam or not to beam, that is the question.” And then immediately begin fretting about the uneven bars.
As the Wawasee Gymnastics Sectional looms on the horizon, the cornucopia of balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercises and vaults begin at 11 a.m. this Saturday in the annex gym at WHS. Among the participants are Wawasee and Warsaw, hoping to break through not necessarily as a top-three team, but more for individuals to pepper the top-six mandate to qualify for the Valparaiso Regional.
The beam, oh the beam. It has been a bugaboo for many a team this season, but much more so for the two local clubs. Wawasee head coach Nika Prather, who isn’t giving up on trying for the third team spot, knows beam could make or break her team’s chances, but also that of her all-around participants in a star-laden sectional field.
“The most frustrating part of this season has been trying to help the girls believe in their abilities and talents,” said Prather, who has been begging and pleading for confidence on the beam all year. “We try to convince them of their potential, and then get them to strive to reach it. Also, overcoming the fear of trying new skills has been challenging, for both rookies and upperclassmen.”
Warsaw head coach Andi Calhoun has had similar struggles with her young team, but has a pair of sectional hopefuls in Shannon Winslow and Abbi Baum. Winslow could be one to break through on beam while Baum has added a huge intro to her beam routine that she began polishing in the final two meets against Elkhart Central and Peru.
“I’m pretty confident (Shannon’s) best events will be beam and floor,” Calhoun said. “She has showed the most improvement on those events.
“Abbi, I think, has a shot at making it in the top six. I think if she stays solid and focused she will be good. As far as Abbi and scoring, on her weak events she will make up for it on the other two.”
Such is the plight, as bars and beam will likely have the most wiggle room at a sectional full of front-line performers. Wawasee’s Kim Garber should contend on floor and Emily Allen has enough juice to warrant consideration in the all-around. Taylor Busse’s bars scores near 8.0 could have her as a darkhorse if everything goes right.
But several performers will have a say in the matter.
Angola features two-time state champion Alex Nickel, who likely will press the issue on bars and beam coming in as the state’s finest. Nickel was also the runner-up at the state finals in the all-around and surely will be among the favorites to return to state again. Nickel’s teammate, Bailey Hinman, will also have a say in the scoring as a strong number two for Angola.
Defending sectional champion DeKalb will bring its duo of Kristin Russell and Ryley Gibson and should be among the team contenders. Likely is also the case for Elkhart Central and Plymouth, two teams both Warsaw and Wawasee have seen three separate times this season, and in all three specific occasions, showed the accord to contend.
Plymouth is led by Cassi Quissell and Nicky Davis while Central have a trio of heavy hitters in Madison McArt, Libby Yeakey and Holly Lehman, of which Lehman has the talent to make a real run as the top all-around performer at the sectional.
Hamilton’s Alex Cool may be the most well-rounded performer of the entire sectional after posting a 36.85 at the Lakeland Invite. Cool won the vault and bars and bested Russell by over a point at the Invite for the all-around honors. The Lakeland Invite is a sectional primer having the entire Wawasee Sectional on hand.
Tippecanoe Valley will have Barbie Kimmel active on only the beam for the sectional.
Wawasee still enters the sectional as the state’s most decorated program having won 23 sectional titles, one more than Marion. While Prather isn’t expecting her team to compete with the likes of Angola or DeKalb, she believes that third spot could be up for grabs. As are regional qualifiers in the individual disciplines.
“As long as we have a chance, and God willing everyone is healthy, why can’t we compete at the sectional?” Prather said. “Emily, Kimmie and Taylor all have opportunities if they hit their routines and we get consistent judging. It’s just up to us whether or not we want to perform like we are capable of doing.”