Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2004

LHS, Lions’ West nab state gymnastics titles

November 7, 2004


— Lawrence High's Mallory West and Free State's Sindra Schueler shared a hug Saturday that said everything anyone wanted to know about how the state gymnastics meet went for Lawrence's two Class 6A high schools.

When it comes to city gymnastics, there is no rivalry, only revelry. And Saturday was one heck of a celebration for both schools because Lawrence High won its first-ever team title, while West won the Lions' first individual crown, and Free State had its best finish, coming in third at Olathe East.

"Today was a win for the city," said Schueler, who finished with a sixth-place medal in the all-around competition, two spots behind Lawrence's Kara Kellison, who was fourth.

"I can't even describe in words how exciting this is for both schools to come here and perform almost perfectly and finish with our best-ever showings."

Neither could West, a freshman who was in "complete shock" that she beat out Shawnee Mission West sophomore Amanda Neighbor's by a score of 37.825 to 37.275.

"I knew that I would have a shot to place pretty high if I came in here and did everything perfectly," said a smiling West. "But I really didn't think I would end up winning the whole thing."

But the Lions did think they had a shot at the team trophy after winning last weekend's regional title in Hutchinson.

"We talked about how we would have to come in here and almost have a perfect performance to beat all the tops teams," said city gymnastics coach Kathy Johnson, whose LHS squad held off Shawnee Mission West by little more than a point to take the team title with a score of 109.050. SM West scored 108.250, while the Firebirds were third at 106.300.

"While you can never truly have a perfect performance during the competition part, we did provide a perfect ending to our season."

So, too, did Free State. If not for slight missteps during beam and floor exercises, the Firebirds could have challenged for the team title.

"This is a great way to end my career," said Schueler, who also took second on the bars with a score of 9.400 and was sixth on the vault at 9.250. "It's so fun to have both teams come here and do so well in the very first time that we've been to state together."

LHS senior Chelsey Ornburn agreed.

"Gymnastics is so different than any other sport in this city because there is no rivalry between the two schools," she said. "We're like one big family, so today was so much fun because we all did so well."

The Lions -- and West -- sealed their fate on the floor exercise.

All eyes were on Lawrence High -- made up of team members Kellison, Ornburn, Jessica Williams, Mallory West and Meredith West -- as it was the last team to perform. The Lions needed to score a 27.15 for the victory, but easily surpassed that mark with a 28.075 showing.

Equally impressive was West, who needed a 9.075 to claim the individual crown, but wowed the crowd with a nearly flawless routine and a score of 9.625 -- which also secured her the state championship on the floor exercise.

"I think that's the best floor routine I've ever had," said West, who also took home the beam title with a score of 9.500, placed third in the bars at 9.300 and was third on the vault at 9.400.

"We got a really good start on the vault. From there we kind of got rid of our nerves and just continued to perform at a high level."

Lawrence's Kellison earned her all-around medal by placing second in the floor exercise with a score of 9.525 and a fourth-place showing on the beam.

Free State sophomore Laura Devlin finished fifth on the bars with a score of 9.200.

A smiling Johnson said that season-best performances from both her squads should let everyone in the city know that gymnastics "is alive and well."

"I know a lot of times this sport doesn't get the same kind of recognition as many of the others, but hopefully the way we did today will give our girls a little time to share the limelight," Johnson said. "Because they definitely deserve it."

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