SYRACUSE – There won’t be anything new or shocking this Saturday at the Wawasee Gymnastics Sectional. All that could change is the reaction.
Wawasee and Elkhart Central are the prohibitive favorites this weekend to win the team championship. The two have seen each other three times already, Central besting Wawasee in the invitational standings at the Blazer and Lakeland showcases while Wawasee stunned Central in the dual at Wawasee two weeks ago. The wakeup call for both clubs, with Central carrying the ability to post in the high 100s, possibly 110 if they hit everything, still puts the three-time defending champions in the enviable position of team favorite. The dual win for the Warriors, which had the Wawasee third scores outgun the Blazers, gives the hosts hope for a long-awaited piece of hardware.
“We have got to be clean this Saturday, no major mistakes,” said Wawasee head coach Nika Prather, who last saw her team win a team title in 2004. “We may not have the big skills, but we have consistency on our side.”
Where Central is at its best is when its top two – Analena VanderZwagg and Skiler Reveal – are in form. The two have the ability to score consistently in the nines, VanderZwagg one of the best in the state on vault (9.6) and floor (9.7). Her top all-around score this season of 37.3 has her in the top 15 competitors in the Hoosier state. Reveal has been the solid second score for the Blazers, her 36.7 top all-around score will put her in the mix for an automatic ticket to regional, and she has hit 9.5 on beam and floor this year.
If Elkhart wants to retain its title, it will need something from Rylee Damewood, Estella Pedraza, Mia Echarlea, or perhaps a darkhouse entry from stud Abbi Downs, who Central head coach Kathy Krauter noted has been working back from a knee injury but would be limited at most to one or two events.
Wawasee has enjoyed one of its best dual seasons in years, posting consistently in the 103-106 range. It’s top two in Reagan Atwood and Jada Parzygnot both have carried the team scores, Atwood hovering in the 36 all-around range the second half of the year and Parzygnot in the mid-35s. Floor has been Wawasee’s best event, with Atwood at 9.6, Parzygnot at 9.535 and Wegener at 9.3 as far as their season highs have gone.
If Wawasee wants to reach the pinnacle of the team standings this Saturday, it needs a big third score. The team has mixed and matched its varsity lineup this year, welcoming back Aundreya Wegener from a back injury to become its third all-arounder. Alyssa Minnix has been consistently in the varsity lineup as have Katelyn Baker and Meghan Beer, all three mixing and matching the fourth varsity line.
“Everyone of them will be contributing to our success, or our failure,” Prather said. “Every performance will need to be the very best they can give that day. Throughout the season, we have proven we have what it takes to come out on top Saturday.”
Prather noted Wawasee will start on vault first, giving her team the natural progression of events, a huge advantage.
“If we hit the first three events, we will be extremely confident going on to floor,” Prather said. “It will all come down to where we are standing in the team scores at that point, as to how crucial those last four routines are going to be.”
DeKalb could be a wild card in the mix, the Barons with the ability to score big with its top three in Shiloh Miller, Sarah Boyd and Jesse Jauergi. Miller has posted a 36.45 in all-around this year and comes into the tournament as likely one of the regional contenders in all four disciplines, Boyd not too far behind. Jauergi becomes the key, or if DeKalb can get a fourth athlete to hit if one of the top three doesn’t score well.
Warsaw would like to take advantage of any of the above teams slipping up. The upstart Tigers have been gradually improving this season, early on with a goal to break 100 as a group, and now looking to climb into the 102-103 range. Led by Remi Beckham, who has become a mid-eight, low-nine scorer in all four events, the opportunity is there for the junior to slide into a regional with a big day.
Coach Tonya Douglass will need career days from Daylen Turner, Megan Metzger, Adree Beckham and Anna Wainscott to have a shot, which is exactly what the coach wants.
“That third spot is a toss-up. It really can go either way depending on how well a team is competing on a given day,” Douglass said. “If there’s a team having a bad day, and we’ve seen plenty who were expected to do well fall apart. I expect us to be right in the mix. These girls are working very hard and are executing the skills that should have them there. We will need to have our best meet of the year, and if we can do that, if we make top three or not, I will be pleased with that.”
Other athletes to keep an eye on as the sectional unfolds are Emily Bracey and Emma Schoenherr of Angola, Kyla Heckaman of Plymouth, Whittney Ray of Lakeland and Clara Honeycutt of East Noble.
The top three teams at the Wawasee Sectional, which begins at 11 a.m. in the annex gym, move onto the regional round next weekend at Huntington North, as do the top six individuals from vault, bars, beam and floor, as well as all-around regardless of team affiliation.