Lawrence High junior Mallory West prepared the entire year with today in mind.
The two-time defending state gymnastics champ in the all-around, who underwent reconstructive ankle surgery in March, competed only on the beam and bars this year to preserve her right ankle for those two events - plus the floor and vault - at the state gymnastics competition at Shawnee Mission East.
"I'm planning to compete in all four," West said. "That's been my goal."
Since last Wednesday's regionals, she has practiced all four events. The structure of the meet should benefit West. Her two last events, floor and vault, will place the greatest stress on her ankle.
Kathy Johnson, the gymnastics coach for LHS and Free State, took a more cautious approach regarding West's objective to complete in the all-around.
"She does want to end the season doing that," Johnson said. "But as the meet progresses, we'll just play that by ear."
LHS has won the state title the last two years and will send all seven of its girls. Only five can compete in a given event, and some will compete in more events than others, but each will participate.
"They've all worked hard," Johnson said. "They all deserve a chance to be in this last competition."
The Lions will compete against eight other schools, including Olathe East, Olathe South, Shawnee Mission North, Shawnee Mission West and Shawnee Mission Northwest.
West is not the only LHS gymnast to come back from injury. Senior Abby Jones, who suffered a stress fracture to her back last year and could not perform on the floor at state, has won the all-around in every competition she's entered this season. Continuing her excellence at state would serve as the grand finale to her dominant year.
"It'd be a pretty big deal," Jones said. "This is probably my last meet ever."
Saturday's meet will represent a peculiar experience for Jennifer Pogge. The Perry-Lecompton student competes with Free State during the season but will compete as an individual for the Kaws on Saturday.
"It's going to be a little different for me," Pogge said.
Pogge will increase her difficulty on the floor by adding a twisting, tumbling routine. She wants to match her sixth-place finish in last year's meet.
Free State will not send Pogge, but senior Laura Devlin will represent the Firebirds.
"She's very strong on the uneven bars," Johnson said. "Hopefully that will end her in a good place in the all-around."
The other teams will shoot to dethrone the two-time defending state champion Lions, but each of the LHS girls is familiar with the pressures involved in a state meet.
"They do have that advantage, being seasoned athletes," Johnson said. "They're all veterans. They've all been to state meets before so they all know what that competition level is."