For The Daily Reporter

COLUMBUS — With three of the state’s top seven teams in Saturday’s Columbus East Regional, things had to fall into place perfectly if New Palestine wanted to break through with a return trip to the state finals.

Unfortunately, the top teams didn’t slip up.

Instead, the Dragons finished fourth, one spot away from a trip to Ball State. Second-ranked Columbus North won with a 112.6, followed by No. 6 Columbus East (109.75), No. 7 Owen Valley (109.425) and New Pal (102.55).

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“That was definitely about as well as we expected,” New Pal coach Jenny Musselman said. “Connersville beat us in sectional, so this was kind of a nice consolation to get them at the regional.”

Connersville finished fifth with a 101.35. New Castle rounded out the teams with a 99.1.

The Dragons were unable to qualify any individuals to state with top-six finishes.

“It’s hard, but I think we all just kind of expected it,” senior Tara Morey said. “We were kind of hoping for a couple of individuals to go.”

Musselman said she agreed.

“That was a low point and kind of a bummer for us, but it was a lot of fun,” Musselman said. “We ended with our best team score of the season. It was a fun meet. Everybody that competed did something really good today.”

That included Morey. She finished 13th on the vault (8.875), 14th on the bars (8.425), 16th on the beam (8.375) and 17th on the floor (8.925) to take 13th in the all-around with a 34.6.

“I had personal bests on three events and the all-around, so I can’t be too disappointed with myself,” Morey said. “We all knew it was going to be a tough competition and that we probably weren’t going to go as far as we’d hoped. I was just hoping for personal bests, and I got them.”

Annabelle Dockins, the Dragons other competing senior, tied for eighth on the vault (9.125) and finished 13th on the floor (9.125), 20th on the beam (8.225) and 24th on the bars (7.275) to take 17th in the all-around with a 33.75.

Also for New Pal, Rory Elsea finished 13th on the beam (8.525). Faith Land tied for 16th on the vault (8.825) and finished 18th on the bars (7.95). Sarah Thompson was 18th on the floor (8.9).

“It’s just a year where it took a lot of heart to get through,” Musselman said. “They weren’t born with that natural gymnastics talent like some of our other girls have had in the past. They had to work their butts off to get to this point, and they did a great job.”

The Dragons were in somewhat of a rebuilding mode after finishing sixth at state last year.

“We had a lot of good girls, and we lost them, but we built back with a few extra,” Morey said. “It’s a little tough, but we can’t be too disappointed with ourselves today.”

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.