COLUMBUS — For the fifth straight year, the New Palestine gymnastics program will be represented at the State Finals. The Dragons hope to begin a new team state streak next season.
Kate Fee won her third championship of the postseason with a regional balance beam triumph Friday at Columbus East to advance to the State Finals next Saturday at Ball State’s Worthen Arena. The top six individuals in each regional event, including the all-around, qualified for state. Fee took fifth in the all-around at Columbus and will compete in all four State Finals competitions.
The top three teams also advanced out of Columbus, but a year after sending the entire squad to Muncie with a second-place regional finish, the Dragons were fifth among six teams Friday.
“We kind of knew it was going to be a long shot anyway,” NP coach Jenny Musselman said of a top-three team finish, given their established opponents’ season-long scores. “I tried to take all the pressure off the kids, thinking maybe we could go out and get really pumped up and have fun and hit (all the routines).
“But I think they ended up having a really good time anyway, and that’s all that really matters. And ending on a good note, and I think they were all pretty proud of themselves.”
Columbus North won its 13th ever regional title with 109.55 points, ahead of Columbus East (106), Connersville (105.025), Bloomington South (104.675), the Dragons (101.125) and New Castle (99.975). North moved into a tie with the crosstown rival Olympians for third-most regional championships all-time behind Valparaiso (19) and Fort Wayne Dwenger (17).
New Palestine’s hunt for its inaugural regional team crown will continue next season with most of this year’s squad eligible to return, including Fee, whose outstanding junior campaign was marked by another highlight Friday.
The Dragons’ top tumbler captured an all-around title last week at the Connersville Sectional, in addition to the beam title. Friday, she triumphed again on the beam with a 9.525, edging East’s Becca Bryan (9.5).
As a sophomore, Fee’s top individual regional effort was sixth on the floor exercise.
“It’s been a good year, a better year from last year,” Fee said. “I think I’ve just gained more confidence, because last year I had most of these skills but I just kind of lacked in confidence. This year, I’ve just grown as a gymnast.”
Fee was third on the floor (9.5) and uneven bars (8.975) Friday and didn’t place on the vault (8.65). Her 36.65 total score was higher than her victorious total of 36.175 at Connersville, but the competition was more intense Friday.
Columbus North senior Katrina May won the all-around regional title with 36.925 points, ahead of Bryan (36.85), Richmond’s Chasity Wampler (36.75), North’s Ashley Holliday (36.675), Fee and North’s Megan Heathcote (35.9).
May finished top-seven in all events, but the individual regional blue ribbons were captured by Fee, Bryan (9.575 on floor), Wampler (9.657 on vault) and Holliday (9.3 on bars).
The standouts will compete one final time this season at Ball State. Fee was part of the New Palestine unit that advanced to state a year ago after only sending individuals the previous three seasons.
Fee will hit the mat as the lone Dragon this time, but, with nothing to qualify for, she’s copasetic.
“State is kind of non-stressor, because it’s the last meet of the year,” Fee said. “Nothing to lose.”
Fee was joined at Columbus by seniors Kylie Zehner and Savannah Eldridge, sophomore Annabelle Dockins and freshman Rylee Elsea.
Zehner won a sectional title on the floor last week for the Dragons and scored an 8.3 Friday in her final prep go-around. She posted her best score of the evening with an 8.425 on vault.
Dockins notched the Dragons’ highest vault score with an 8.950, good for 12th place. She also grabbed 13th on the floor with an 8.925. Dockins recorded a 20th-place all-around finish with 32.95 points.
Zehner, 23rd in the all-around (30.125), and Eldridge are graduating in a few months, but Dockins, Elsea, her junior sister Regan Elsea, and sophomores Carly Miller and Katie McDonald will regroup with Fee next winter.
“We should be a really good, solid team,” Musselman said. “And I think a lot of kids have big goals for next year, so I think they’re going to work really hard in the offseason. They’ve got a lot of drive.”
Elsewhere around the state Friday, Fort Wayne Dwenger won the regional at Huntington North with 110.85 points, followed by Fort Wayne Carroll (104.225) and Jay County (101.95), which edged DeKalb (101.725) for the third and final State Finals team spot.
Hamilton’s Alex Cool won the all-around (37.875).
Results weren’t available Friday for the state’s third gymnastics regional at Valparaiso.
At the 2013 State Finals, Portage (112.6) snuck past Valparaiso (112.1) for the championship. New Palestine finished seventh (104.625).