NEW PALESTINE — Before her name was announced Thursday night as the meet’s all-around champion, New Palestine sophomore Grace Shanahan was ready for the spotlight.
With her lucky pink sunglasses covering her eyes, the Dragons’ gymnast hoped up and raised both hands, blue ribbon in hand — in her comfort zone.
“They are kind of my thing. I found them one day, wore them to practice, had a good practice, so they stuck,” Shanahan joked about her podium eye-wear fashion. “I take them with me everywhere.”
Much like gymnastics, her shades are a big part of Shanahan’s routine, one she’s happy to be doing — healthy.
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A competitive gymnast from the age of 4 until 12, Shanahan had a brief hiatus before her freshman year of school gymnastics, but when she returned, she was limited.
Due to a foot injury, Shanahan missed 12 weeks after corrective surgery and contributed where she could as the Dragons secured their third sectional title in five years and 10th overall last year.
Shanahan placed seventh on beam with an 8.575 during last season’s sectional and was third on bars (8.625).
“For a long time all I did was bars, and then at the end of the season I ended up doing beam and floor, but I didn’t vault or do much of anything,” Shanahan said. “It’s a big comeback I guess.”
Thursday’s tri-meet at Doe Creek Elementary, hosted by New Palestine against Roncalli and Scecina Memorial, marked one of many successes in her return tour.
Shanahan won the all-around with a score of 34.275, while Roncalli’s Addy Hill was second with a 33.45. New Palestine junior Aly Henson was third with a 32.675.
Shanahan was first on the uneven bars (8.725), first on balance beam (8.975) and won the floor exercise with a 8.425. The only event she struggled with was vault where she scored an 8.15.
“That’s not my strongest. I have some work to do there,” Shanahan said.
The Dragons continued to sharpen their skills collectively, as well, improving to 8-3 on the season behind a winning team score of 98.625.
Roncalli was second with 96.0, and Scecina was third at 87.175.
New Palestine head coach Debbie Bruns was pleased with the team’s performance, especially considering the rampant cases of flu sweeping through her roster the past few weeks.
“A couple of them were struggling to get through the night after being sick all week, so I was glad they were back,” Bruns said. “Hopefully, they can start building their strength back up.”
Despite illness, the team was coming off a runner-up finish at New Castle in a four-way meet Saturday. They swept another three-way meet at Morristown on Tuesday, tallying 97.175 points.
“We went to Morristown the other night and we put a lot of kids up there for fun because we were so short, so I told them, here’s your opportunity,” Bruns said. “They did a great job and we had a lot of fun. Tonight was kind of the same way. We were not really struggling as far as winning, it was more of us trying to throw in new skills for sectional and get healthy.”
Henson, who has been combating the flu, showed hints at regaining her form with a third-place showing on bars (7.85) and a runner-up performance on beam (8.9).
Emma Poag (30.6) was seventh in the all-around for New Palestine, while Taylor Brown was eighth with a 29.925. Brown was fifth on vault (8.4). Poag was fifth on bars (6.975), and Anna Greiner finished fifth on beam (8.125).
“Aly Henson will be right there with Grace, if I can ever get her healthy,” Bruns laughed. “Taylor went to state as a freshman and she competed for us, so she has a lot of experience. She’s competed at sectional and regional every year. She always makes us better.”
The primary goal is having a good time, Shanahan emphasized, while eyeing more this postseason in late February.
“Sectional is a little step. We want to go there and do our best and win, but our big step is trying to make it to state,” Shanahan said. “We obviously take it seriously, but we just want to have fun and make each other laugh at the end day.”
New Palestine Tri-Meet
Team Scores: New Palestine 98.625, Roncalli 96.0, Scecina Memorial 87.175
All-Around: 1st – Grace Shanahan (NP) 34.275, 2nd – Addy Hill (R) 33.45, 3rd – Aly Henson (NP) 32.675.
Floor: 1st – Grace Shanahan (NP) 8.425, 2nd – Grace Lawrie (R) 8.35, 3rd – Molly Griffin (S) 8.125.
Balance Beam: 1st – Grace Shanahan (NP) 8.975, 2nd – Aly Henson (NP) 8.9, 3rd – Addy Hill (R) 8.775.
Uneven Bars: 1st – Grace Shanahan (NP0 8.725, 2nd – Addy Hill (R) 8.0, 3rd – Aly Henson (NP) 7.85.
Vault: 1st – Molly Griffin (S) 9.05, 2nd – Addy Hill (R) 8.65, 3rd – Grace Lawrie (R) 8.65.