The New Palestine gymnastics team is just a few days away from embarking on a journey it hopes ends at Ball State University in Muncie with a state title. The first stop of the journey: a sectional date at Connersville on Saturday. Here is a quick look at the Dragons’ past, present and future.
The Dragons and their fans do not have to stretch their memory much to recall New Palestine’s most recent sectional glory. Led by 2013 graduate Kenzi Hoffman and then-sophomore Kate Fee, the host Dragons cruised to the crown with 106.625 points, beating out Franklin Central (103.125) and Noblesville (100.225). That team went on to place second in their regional — behind Logansport — and ultimately finished seventh at state.
Last season, coach Jenny Musselman and Co. advanced out of sectionals by finishing second behind Connersville. The team’s season ended a week later at the Columbus East Regional, but Fee claimed sectional and regional balance beam titles and advanced individually to state, where she finished 20th in the all-around.
The dynamic duo of Fee and fellow senior Regan Elsea have led the Dragons to a nearly unblemished record this season. Perhaps their most impressive feat of the year, though, was a second-place finish in mid-February’s Bloomington North Sweetheart Invitational, where they outpaced No. 8 Bloomington South 104.65-104.325.
With their recent 105.745-point effort in the regular-season finale against Shelbyville, the Dragons notched their best score of the year and the 15th-highest team total in the state, according to ingymnastics.com. No team in their sectional, which includes Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Connersville, Morristown, Muncie Central, New Castle, Richmond, Rushville, Seton Catholic and Shelbyville, has managed a higher score, making the Dragons sectional favorites.
The Dragons have been represented at the state finals for five straight years. Their effort to make it six begins Saturday at Connersville. In order to advance as a team to the March 13 regional at Columbus East, New Palestine needs to finish in the top three.
For individuals, the top six in each event advance to the regional, as well as the top six in the all-around competition. All gymnasts who receive the score of the sixth-place gymnast at the previous state finals meet also move on. Automatic qualifying scores are as follows: bars — 9.5; beam — 9.3; vault — 9.525; floor exercise — 9.45; all-around — 37.225.