Central Edges Wawasee By One For Title [VIDEO]
SYRACUSE – When the team scores were announced Saturday afternoon in the annex gym to conclude the Wawasee Gymnastics Sectional, it was as if no one was in the gym. With a front-loaded sectional team field, and individual scores not ballooning like many had expected, silence fell upon the stands and bystanders as public address announcer Paula Fiscus went through the scores. And by one point, Elkhart Central emerged as the sectional champion.
“I’ve got enough gray hair, this didn’t need to be this close,” said a relieved and incredibly satisfied Elkhart Central head coach Kathy Krauter. “I’ve got a lot of rookies and young kids. Two freshman in my varsity lineup, a sophomore and a junior. When you have a boatload of rookies, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to perform. And these are club kids, but the high school stage is much different. There is nothing like this.”
Central held off Wawasee 106.375-105.375 in a battle that some in the crowd may not have expected, but others anticipated for weeks. DeKalb gave it a whirl and finished third at 103.35, all three taking the prize of ‘regional ticket’ as qualifying teams for next Saturday’s Huntington Regional.
But the battle waged for first place left most guessing who would come out on top.
Central didn’t storm out of the gate as it had in year’s past. A few wobbles on vault still had Central score 26.65, led by the duo of Kiara Stabler at 9.0 and Abi Downs at 8.85. But Wawasee kept pace by sticking beam, where it has historically fell apart in sectionals, with two of the top three scores in the meet. Freshman Jada Parzygnot hopped on the apparatus and churned out a 9.175, and later joined by Reagan Atwood’s 8.925 which took third. Atwood’s performance was memorable in a wobble and fall on her final skill left many on the deck as well as a good-sized fan base trying to will the talented sophomore back upright.
The two Wawasee stars would recover for a one-two finish on floor in the next rotation, with Atwood coming back strong with a 9.5, the top score on any event the entire meet. Parzygnot claimed second with a very strong 9.3, and with Alyssa Minnix’s 8.625, Wawasee was showing it could compete with the No. 10-ranked Blue Blazers.
After the third rotation, Wawasee actually led the meet with an 80.00 to Central’s 78.9 as the Lady Warriors gained a little wiggle room after its vault series, with Atwood taking 8.85 tied with Downs for second and Ashleigh Frecker sixth at 8.775. But Wawasee finished with bars while Central took to floor. And Central’s showmanship outshined Wawasee’s grit in the final rotation, with Downs and Skiler Reveal both scoring 9.225 and Kiara Stabler hitting 9.025 while the Lady Warriors came up with just 25.375 points on the uneven bars.
The 2.1 points difference in round four allowed the Blazers to defend its crown.
“We built the girls up, that we could come out and win this, of course that being the ultimate goal,” said Wawasee head coach Nika Prather, who last guided a team to regional in 2009. “I knew going into the last event that someone told me we were up by one point. I was tasting that championship. But we were going to have to pull off scores we haven’t had all season. And Elkhart was going to have to tank the floor. Watching the margin dwindle with each one of their passes, I was like, ‘nooooo.’”
Stabler wound up being the bars champion at 9.125, with Atwood the top Wawasee score at 8.6, finishing fifth. Stabler would be the all-around champion with a score of 36.00, with Atwood second at 35.875, New Prairie’s Alexandra Palmer third at 35.775, Parzygnot fourth at 35.55, and Reveal and Downs next with a 35.25 and 35.125, respectively.
“After that first event, we knew we could come back,” Krauter said. “We knew that we could outvault everyone here, all we had to do was just hit. The fact that we didn’t hit, that made it very uncomfortable. But Kiara and Skiler really won this meet for us, they came back to have great meets.”
Added Prather, whose team beat Central head-to-head in the annex earlier in the month, “We knew if we performed to our ability, we had a chance. The 105 is phenomenal, I’ll take it. But that one point, I know the kids will want to fix some things and go after the regional. We’ve seen Carroll and Homestead has been scoring near what we have. We know what Central will bring and same with DeKalb. Dwenger, well, that will be a lot tougher. But I feel really good going to Huntington next week.”
Warsaw did not qualify an athlete to the regional round, but had a couple near misses. Remi Beckham added her name to the watch list for next year with a quality set of performances. Beckham, just a freshman, placed eighth on vault (8.7) and floor (9.025) and finished 11th in the all-around tally with a 33.35, Warsaw’s best all-around showing.
Click here to see a video of Beckham on the beam.
Hayley Campbell paced Warsaw on bars with a 7.775, good for 15th, and Anna Wainscott was 14th on the beam with an 8.075. Warsaw finished sixth in the team standings with a 97.00, its second-highest point total of the season.
Central, Wawasee and DeKalb will work at the Huntington North Regional with teams from Fort Wayne Dwenger, Homestead and Fort Wayne Carroll, all qualifiers from the Concordia Sectional. No. 5 Dwenger won the meet with a whopping 113.20 point total, No. 15 Homestead second (108.425) and No. 14 Carroll third (107.125). The regional will begin at noon, with the same scenario to advance to state – the top three teams and top six athletes in each event will qualify.