SYRACUSE — Many athletes would consider fifth place unacceptable. For one Wawasee senior, fifth place was just fine.
Kim Garber was perfectly content with the fifth-place 8.8 score on floor she was deemed to have performed at Saturday’s Wawasee Gymnastics Sectional. While it’s not championship level scoring, it still allowed Garber to move onto the Valparaiso Regional for at least one more go-round.
“I know it wasn’t my best scoring, but it was one of my best performances,” Garber said following the meet. “It’s all up to the judges on what they give me. I was proud. When I compared it to what they were giving the other girls, it wasn’t like they were favoring someone else or scoring differently for certain teams.”
The floor as a whole was a controversial one as the sectional unfolded. While a pair of 9.45s from Angola’s Alex Nickel and Hamilton’s Alex Cool were more to form of the event’s normal scoring patterns, Elkhart Central’s Holly Lehman had the only other nine of the meet, a paltry 9.15.
DeKalb’s Kristin Russell finished what she thought was a solid routine and was awarded just an 8.95 from what some joked were Russian judges. The kickers were the 8.65s given to DeKalb’s Hayley Gibson and Plymouth’s Traci Longanecker. Not because the two didn’t deserve them, but for the routines that several were not scored as high for, which included Longanecker’s teammates Cassi Quissell (8.45), Nicky Davis (8.35) as well as Warsaw’s Abbi Baum at just 8.15.
“Every tenth counts, when you have little mistakes here and there, those things add up and that’s pretty much what happened,” said a disappointed Andi Calhoun of Warsaw’s overall performance. “Abbi’s routine fell apart with the tumbling. She wasn’t up to par with Alex Nickel and those girls from Angola. I think if she had been able to bump it up, she could have been good there.
“We know what it takes to get out of sectionals, we just weren’t there today.”
Baum’s best placing came on bars, where her 8.125 landed in a tie with Angola’s Lauren Henderson for eighth place. Taylor Busse of Wawasee was just one spot behind with an 8.075.
Baum had a 32.425 all-around score while teammate Shannon Winslow finished with a 31.25.
Busse and Wawasee were more than thrilled, however, with its beam scores. In a historically troubling event for the Lady Warriors, three no-fall routines had Wawasee post the second-best three-score total of the meet at 25.225.
Molly Smith began Wawasee’s compliment with a career-best score of 7.925. The tears of joy had not dried from Smith’s eyes when Busse posted an 8.625 no-fall, her best-ever showing in the event. Emily Allen then concluded the sectional with all eyes on her, sticking an 8.675, just missing qualifying for the regional in seventh place. Busse was eighth overall.
“We have worked a lot, a lot on beam,” Wawasee head coach Nika Prather said, diagramming tactics from the week of training. “I really saw the girls make the effort to do the little things that add points to scores. I really think that was the difference in the scores and performances we had today.”
Angola claimed the team title with an uncontested 106.175 points followed by Plymouth at 100.925. DeKalb were third at 99.85 and Wawasee, which were beaten soundly by DeKalb on the same equipment in late January, were less than two points out of qualifying for the regional as a team with its 98.025 points.
Nickel began defense of her bars and beam state titles with championships at Wawasee. She won the bars at 9.55 and beam at 9.625, and was second on vault at 9.5. Her all-around score of 38.125 will place her as one of the favorites in Valpo next Friday. Cool was the vault champion at 9.55 to compliment her sharing of the floor title with Nickel. Cool finished her day runner-up in all-around scoring at 37.125.
Tippecanoe Valley senior Barbie Kimmel performed all four events and closed her career with a 26.55, a 7.9 on vault her best individual score.
While Wawasee had just Garber advance to the regional, Prather could not have been more thrilled with her team’s successes.
“For Kimmie to make it out, she was seventh last year in one event, eighth in another, I was just so happy for my senior,” Prather said. “It was her last shot, and for the other girls, I can turn to them and say, go get them next year. Not with Kimmie. So I am really proud for her.
“I just wish we had two more points in us, we were so close,” Prather continued. “But, you know, we can be proud of what we did today. That score is phenomenal. We topped teams that beat us during the season. That really shows what we can be. That score is really encouraging.”
WAWASEE GYMNASTICS SECTIONAL
*Top three teams and top six gymnasts qualify for the Valparaiso Regional
1. Angola 106.175
2. Plymouth 100.925
3. DeKalb 99.85
4. Wawasee 98.025
5. Lakeland 96.675
6. Elkhart Central 94.375
7. Warsaw 93.25
8. East Noble 89.525
9. West Noble 74.425
10. Hamilton 37.125
11. Tippecanoe Valley 26.55
1. Alex Cool, Hamilton 9.55; 2. Alex Nickel, Angola 9.5; 3. Ryley Gibson, DeKalb 9.2; 4. Bailey Hinman, Angola and Chloe Sturdivant, Lakeland 9.15; 6. Caitlin Yoder, Lakeland and Kristin Russell, DeKalb 9.1
1. Alex Nickel, Angola 9.55; 2. Alex Cool, Hamilton 9.2; 3. Kristin Russell, DeKalb 9.05; 4. Nicky Davis, Plymouth 9.0; 5. Holly Lehman, Elkhart Central and Cassi Quissell, Plymouth 8.875
1. Alex Nickel, Angola 9.625; 2. Alex Cool, Hamilton 8.925; 3. Cassi Quissell, Plymouth 8.875; 4. Nicky Davis, Plymouth 8.85; 5. Bailey Hinman, Angola 8.825; 6. Lauren Henderson, Angola 8.75
1. Alex Nickel, Angola and Alex Cool, Hamilton 9.45; 3. Holly Lehman, Elkhart Central 9.125; 4. Kristin Russell, DeKalb 8.95; 5. Kim Garber, Wawasee 8.8; 6. Hayley Gibson, DeKalb and Traci Longanecker, Plymouth 8.65
1. Alex Nickel, Angola 38.125; 2. Alex Cool, Hamilton 37.125; 3. Kristin Russell, DeKalb 35.7; 4. Nicky Davis, Plymouth 35.15; 5. Cassi Quissell, Plymouth 35.1; 6. Bailey Hinman, Angola and Holly Lehman, Elkhart Central 34.175