Despite injury, Maya Dey made her first and only year with Free State High gymnastics a big one

photo by: Matt Tait

Free State senior Maya Dey, shown here at the entrance to the school, recently finished tied for second in the all-around competition at the 6A gymnastics meet, helping the Firebirds bring home a third-place team trophy.

Maya Dey’s senior season with Free State High School’s gymnastics team was her only season, and it was a big one, ending in a second-place all-around finish at last weekend’s state tourney.

It was also a season that she almost didn’t get the chance to finish.

Midway through the season, Dey hurt her left knee during a vault, and she didn’t know then whether she’d be able to go to the state meet at all.

“It was kind of up in the air until the week of state,” Dey said. “I wasn’t sure.”

Dey has been around gymnastics since she was 3 years old and has competed with the club team Lawrence Gymnastics Academy, but she didn’t join her high school team until this year, when her friends convinced her to come aboard. After her injury, she was determined to recover and help them at state if she could.

“I rested as long as possible, then I tried (to practice) a few days before state to see how it felt to do simple skills,” she said. Throughout it all, she was careful not to reaggravate her injury.

And by the time of the state meet, “thankfully, it felt fine.”

Dey said her teammates helped her feel more confident as she returned to competition. She said the team started getting pumped up the minute they unpacked for the state meet inside the Olathe South gym.

“All the other teams were just sitting there; it was very boring,” Dey said. “We got the speaker out, we started blasting music and singing and dancing and getting ready for the meet — just enjoying ourselves.

“That’s what stands out for us is that when we go to the meets, we cheer the loudest. We cheer for other teams and we’re always the happiest,” she said. “We’re a very positive group of girls, and it’s taught me how to have more optimism.”

They had a lot to be happy about after the competition, as well. The Firebirds won the third-place team trophy, and Dey and her teammates had plenty of strong performances as individuals.

Senior Maya Huang and junior Jojo Warrior tied for ninth on the beam. Junior Elaina Zung placed 11th in the vault, and Warrior was 15th in that event. And Huang finished eighth on the bar, just a few points behind Dey.

It added up to another great year for the Firebirds, who have been to seven straight state meets and won the state title in 2020. Fourth-year Free State coach Katrina Farrow said she was grateful for all of her gymnasts’ hard work this season.

“We can cater to all levels of talent,” Farrow said. “You’ve got girls that have been working hard and doing well and then you have a club gymnast pop in. It raised the level for everyone.”


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