HUNTINGTON – Saturday’s conclusion to the Wawasee Gymnastics Sectional will be one the host Warriors will not soon forget. But, if Wawasee wants to make positive strides at this weekend’s Huntington North Gymnastics Regional, it will have to have short memories.
Despite disaster on the floor, where collapses by three of its four competitors saw Wawasee fall out of title contention, the team still moved onto the regional round. It’s how Wawasee responds that will determine if they will chase after one of three team state spots.
Wawasee comes in as the fifth-ranked team in the regional, sitting ahead of DeKalb and behind Elkhart Central from the Wawasee Sectional, but squarely behind all three entrants from the Fort Wayne Concordia Sectional. Champion Fort Wayne Carroll has continued to be one of the top teams in the state, posting a 111.775 to claim the title ahead of fellow powerhouses Fort Wayne Dwenger (110.65) and Homestead (107.875).
It’s a position Wawasee has been in before, coming into the regional having to chase Fort Wayne’s entrants and Elkhart Central. Wawasee has finished fifth and sixth the past two regional appearances at Huntington, and will need more than its average to get through. The team posted a season-high 106.65 on its home equipment against Central in early February and hit 106 two other times, but would still be shy of the 107 both Elkhart and Homestead are hitting consistently.
What needs to change for Wawasee heading into regional?
“I’d like to think if we hit everything that we threw, we would have enough to advance from regional,” stated Wawasee head coach Nika Prather. “(Saturday) proved that anything can happen to any team at any time. You never know. Hopefully, we have to get our mental focus back and bounce back if someone does stumble again. Our goal is still to get to state, so we can’t change what we are doing just because sectionals didn’t go our way.”
Despite the poor finish, Wawasee still had regional-level scores from its top two in Reagan Atwood and Jada Parzygnot. The duo were automatic qualifiers on vault, bars and beam with top-six finishes, Atwood winning beam with a 9.325 and second on vault at 9.275 while Parzygnot was second on bars at 8.75. Even after the floor mishaps for both, they still compiled two of the six qualifying all-around scores, Atwood at 35.675 and Parzygnot at 34.9. If Prather’s assessments following the sectional were accurate, had the two finished their floor routines unscathed, add a point each to their totals, possibly more for Parzygnot.
What has been a tough matchup in recent years for the Wawasee sectional qualifiers against the perennial powers from Allen County, scores from the weekend would point to the trend continuing. The team scores alone would have Central’s 107.2 team score behind Homestead, and using all-around numbers – generally the best indicator of overall strength – five scores from Fort Wayne are higher than Wawasee champion Analena VanderZwaag from Elkhart Central, and two more are right behind her just .3 away.
Central has gone to state as a team just once this decade, in 2016, and is primed to make a return. With VanderZwaag and Skiler Reveal hitting as the team’s one-two, the Blazers have been able to build enough frontline depth to need just a quality showing from its third to get to where it wants to go. Rylee Damewood was that in the sectional on vault in finishing fifth overall and offering a top-15 on floor while Mia Echartea was eighth on bars. Ellie Dobson also gives Elkhart a solid option.
“In big meets, you just have to be on it,” said Elkhart Central head coach Kathy Krauter. “I don’t care if you are sick, hurt, whatever. They don’t cancel the meets if you don’t feel good. You have to suck it up and go out there and perform. We’ve got some minor stuff like that going on, so we’ve been working on the mental aspect. The physical aspect, it is what it is at this point. In order for us to run with Homestead, we can’t give up a point or two on places like beam because we weren’t prepared or weren’t mentally focused.”
Warsaw has one entrant in the regional, Remi Beckham on the beam. The junior was fifth overall at 8.9 and just missed the all-around ticket, placing seventh behind Parzygnot by .1. Beckham will take it after missing the sectional a season ago with a leg injury.
“Once you get a couple sectionals under you, sectionals aren’t quite as stressful and I think Remi showed that,” said Warsaw coach Tonya Douglass. “I think she is looking forward to getting back out there and improving on what has already been a very good season.”
The Huntington Regional will begin at noon Saturday, the top three teams and top six individuals earning automatic bids to the IHSAA Gymnastics State Finals on March 10 at Ball State.