Halftime talk helps Kernels refocus to become Class AA state gymnastics champions
It was the closest margin of victory all year for Mitchell, which defeated O’Gorman by four-tenths at home in December.
ABERDEEN — There is no halftime or intermission in a gymnastics meet.
But the pep talk and team huddle midway through Mitchell’s state championship effort on Friday helped turn the tide for the Kernels.
It came after Mitchell had an OK, but not great rotation on the balance beam, with a few falls. O’Gorman, the chief challenger to the Kernels, was looking strong after their turns in floor exercise and vault. That was when Audra Rew called her team together and discussed what they needed to do.
“Fight. It’s not over until it’s over,” Rew recalled. “Those things happen on the beam. They could have given up on the beam and they really fought to stay in it. You make one mistake, it’s not do or die. But you have to fight through them.. … We had the hard events over and it was about going and having fun and performing like we could on floor and vault.”
From there, Mitchell surged on the floor exercise and the vault, and it proved to be enough, delivering state championship No. 8 for Rew and the Kernels at Golden Eagles Arena in the Class AA team competition. Mitchell scored 148.550 points, edging the Knights’ total of 148.250. It was the closest margin of victory all year for Mitchell, which defeated O’Gorman by four-tenths at home in December.
“We really just knew we had to keep working, keep our heads down and do our routines and we’d have a shot at the end,” senior Emily Moody said. “We didn’t know how close it would be but we knew we could be proud either way if we gave it all we had and we did that.”
Rew said she was surprised at how close the team points race ended up being but credited the team for competing as a unit and lifting each other up.
“It was close and we really haven’t had a meet quite like that all year,” Kyra Gropper said. “I think our toughness showed today.”
Mitchell got started on bars and had a solid routine. Bentley Bates had a score of 9.583, followed by Kyra Gropper (9.383), Kyanna Gropper (9.200) and Olivia Prunty (9.017), with Moody posting 8.817 points. On beam, Prutny was the top scorer (9.383), with Kyra Gropper (9.183), Moody (8.983), Kyanna Gropper (8.933) and Aubrey Gelderman (8.400) following. (Five gymnasts compete in each event, with the top-four scores counting toward the team total.)
On bars, Bates also got a boost from something Rew doesn’t commonly do. She used the 10-minute inquiry window following Bates’ bars routine and after she reviewed the judges’ scoring sheet, saw that Bates did not get the proper base credit for the difficulty of her routine. The change moved Bates’ score from a 9.467 to a 9.583, bumping Mitchell up by another tenth of a point in the event.
Rew said it’s the first time she’s ever had a successful inquiry at the state meet.
“It’s not something I frequently do but it was something I wondered about when I saw the score,” Rew said. “It ended up being important considering how close everything was.”
While Mitchell was on floor, the Knights’ challenge for the state title took a hit on the uneven bars, with an edge of 1.3 points to Mitchell in that event. Audrey Meyer scored 9.650 points but Maeve Boetel, who has a high difficulty routine, fell off the bars and scored 9.167 points and O’Gorman’s other gymnasts did not clear 8.600 points. O’Gorman beat Mitchell on the other three events but the difference on the bars ended up telling the story. Meyer had an all-around score of 38.583 and Boetel would have posted 38.384 in an all-around competition.
Harrisburg had three of the top-five scores on the floor exercise, helping get the Tigers into the mix, but like O’Gorman, struggles on the uneven bars in the final rotation ended up leaving the Tigers out of the race for first place.
Mitchell’s floor scores included Moody (9.450), Prunty (9.433), Kyra Gropper (9.383), Bates (9.367) and Gelderman (9.317). On vault, Prunty had the leading score (9.500), followed by Moody (9.350), Kyanna Gropper (9.267), Tessa Allen (9.133) and Lainee Forst (9.100). Among all gymnasts, Prunty, a freshman, had the third-best all-around score of the day (37.333), while Moody was fifth (36.600).
While the state meet technology has evolved to the point that every spectator can follow the scores on their phones, the gymnasts themselves aren’t available to that information. When the public-address announcer announced that O’Gorman finished second, many of the Kernel gymnasts shared tears and hugs about being No. 1.
“We really didn’t know how it would turn out,” Bates said. “It was a great feeling.”
Mitchell now turns the page to the Class AA individual competition, which starts at 10 a.m. Saturday in Aberdeen. The Kernels expect to be all over the podium, with four all-around gymnasts in the competition.