MUNCIE – The stories of headache and stress from the sports world turning upside down last week did produce a quiet, cool finale from the area.
A singular text on March 10 to Aundreya Wegener while she was in class turned her week around. The Wawasee High School senior found out the initial conclusion to her gymnastics career was being extended one week. The sudden elation and joy turned to cautious skepticism that another text could come.
Wegener had just finished her regional performance on floor, scoring an 8.95 at Huntington North. Her 12th place standing left her on the outside looking in, needing to have finished within the top six results. A call from the IHSAA gymnastics committee to her head coach, Nika Prather, however, afforded Wegener a shot at one more go-round. Wegener was tabbed to perform as a ‘base scorer’ at the IHSAA State Finals, to give judges a shot at streamlining their scoring before the actual event took place.
But would it be allowed to happen?
As the IHSAA truncated, then shut down, the regional basketball tournament, gymnastics was told to stay on hold. The decision was soon made to run the state finals at Ball State without spectators. It was at least something, and gave gymnasts like Wegener one more shot.
“I was just ready to come down,” Wegener said. “I really had to try to stay positive. It was sad that it was over (after regional), but Tuesday I was super happy that I got to come down for one more routine.”
Once at Worthen Arena, Wegener was first up as scheduled. Her routine wasn’t the sharpest she’s ever had, but it did reflect a state-level score of 8.9. Prather noted those scores typically sit a little low given the judges are seeing it first, which is the whole point of the base scorer opening the event. Wegener said once she started her routine, the oddities of the empty arena went away. The other gymnasts quickly became each other’s family and friends.
Where teams and individuals were there to compete for their own glory, the situation prompted the hundred-plus girls to all become one in support.
“All the athletes did a great job cheering each other on,” Prather said. “Everybody was cheering for everybody. You didn’t have the big fan clubs there like Chesterton and Valpo always have. You feel bad for the athletes that their parents and fans couldn’t see them live, but the athletes did a good job picking up the slack.”
The meet would serve as the finality for Wegener as a senior, but also the illustrious career of Prather and her assistant, Sarah Wegener, Aundreya’s mom. Prather and Wegener coached together for 11 years at Wawasee, Sarah was a former gymnast for Prather, and the head coach spent 33 years as coach at Wawasee.
“Of course it was sad,” Prather said of her final meet as coach. “I went into my office (last Friday) and started putting things into boxes and I said, wait, I’m not coming back. When I flipped the lights off in the gym, that’s how I felt. I just turned the lights off in the gym one last time. No one was in there. It was like I was in a movie.”