There is something about the floor exercise that always brings out the best in Free State High’s gymnastics team.
“We all love floor,” FSHS junior Grace Bartle said after her team earned the top four spots in the floor exercise and won a quadrangular Thursday night at Lawrence High. “We dread bars and beam. Beam is so scary, and bars are so scary. On the floor, you can just show your personality and have fun.”
The lively floor routines earned a fourth-place finish for Hannah Moran (8.1 points), third for Haley Johnson (8.4), second for Carrie Howland (8.6) and first place for Bartle (9.1).
Howland finished first in all-around points, with 33.45, after taking first place in vault, bars and beam at the quad. The junior said the Firebirds tend to shine on the floor.
“We all get pumped up for it,” she said, “and we’re all cheering for each other, so we go all-out.”
The event that suits Howland most, though, is the vault. She brings a lot of difficulty to her approach with a front hand spring full.
“The starting value’s a lot higher than a front hand spring,” she explained after scoring an 8.9, “and I’ve always had more power than anything else, so I’m able to get around and everything. And I just think it’s really fun.”
Last year, her vault scores topped out at 9.3.
“I’ll get better,” she said with a giggle.
Bartle, who finished second in all-around points, with 33.05, praised Howland for leading FSHS.
“She has an amazing vault all the time. She wasn’t landing it in warm-ups, but she landed it while she was competing,” Bartle said. “She’s always that consistent girl who gives us consistent scores. I can always count on her.”
Even though Free State had the best overall team score on the beam, with 23.4, and second-best bars score (22.6, just 0.3 points behind Shawnee Mission East), Bartle said the Firebirds have a lot of work to do in those events.
“If we want to do good throughout the season and win more meets like the last two years,” she said, “we really need to step up our game.”
Host Lawrence finished third at the quad, with 91.8 points — 1.8 behind runner-up SME.
Lions senior Allison Williams, who finished fourth in all-around points, with 31.6, said the season-opening meet had some positive moments, despite some jitters.
“I think we were all really nervous for our first meet and having it at home,” Williams said. “Normally it’s away, and our friends don’t come, so there’s not as much pressure. But there were a lot of people in the stands, and we were kind of nervous. But we pulled through and had a good meet.”
LHS had its best team score on the floor, but Williams thought the Lions did well in the balance beam, too. She scored 7.8, Heather Wisbey had 7.6 and Ashley Ammann scored 7.3.
Williams said the day marked a successful debut for the new LHS and Free State coach, Brooke Kissinger.
“I’m really excited to have Brooke as our coach,” she said, “because we really struggled finding coaches the last couple of years.”
Thursday at Lawrence High
Team scores: 1. Free State, 97.9; 2. Shawnee Mission East, 93.6; 3. Lawrence, 91.8; 4. Shawnee Mission North, 87.8.
Free State individual results
Balance beam — Carrie Howland, 8.1; Haley Johnson, 7.7; Grace Bartle, 7.6; Hannah Moran, 7.6; Brooklyn Hayes, 4.8; Morgan Rohe (JV), 4.0; Holly Fitcraft (JV), 3.6.
Uneven bars — Bartle, 8.35; Howland, 7.85; Johnson, 6.4; H. Moran, 6.3; Becca Moran (JV), 3.5; Kennedy Sullivan (JV), 2.0.
Vault — Howland, 8.9; Johnson, 8.5; H. Moran, 8.4; Bartle, 8.0; B. Moran, 8.25; Hayes (JV), 7.9.
Floor — Bartle, 9.1; Howland, 8.6; Johnson, 8.4; H. Moran, 8.1; Hayes, 6.8; Rohe (JV), 5.0; Lina Benguigui (JV), 5.0.
Lawrence individual results
Balance beam — Allison Williams, 7.8; Heather Wisbey, 7.6; Ashley Ammann, 7.3; Jordyn Leon, 6.1; Elizabeth Harms, 5.9; Kiana Cummings (JV), 3.9; Elaine Harris (JV), 3.4.
Uneven bars — Williams, 7.5; Leon, 6.8; Ammann, 6.45; Wisbey, 5.75; Harris (JV), 2.3; Ja’Mya Dye (JV), 2.0.
Vault — Williams, 8.5; Ammann, 8.3; Leon, 8.1; Wisbey, 7.9; Le-asa Woods, 7.6; Dye (JV), 6.3.
Floor — Ammann, 8.0; Williams, 7.8; Harms, 7.65; Leon, 7.6; Wisbey, 7.15; Shaelyn Marr (JV), 5.05; Cummings (JV), 4.9; Harris (JV), 4.8; Rowan O’Daniels (JV), 4.7.
All-around city medalists: 1. Howland, FSHS, 33.45; 2. Bartle, FSHS, 33.05; 4. Williams, LHS, 31.6; 6. Johnson, FSHS, 31.0.