NEW PALESTINE — The New Palestine gymnastics team has never doubted it will defend its sectional title. Tuesday’s dual meet against Shelbyville did nothing to persuade the Dragons otherwise.
Less than two weeks before the start of the state tournament, New Palestine posted a season-best score in a 102.625-87.225 win over Shelbyville.
The Dragons are defending sectional champs, but they’ll head to the Connersville Sectional on March 8 unranked (barring a change in the final regular season poll), while the host Spartans are at No. 12 in the state coaches poll.
“I think people have kind of dismissed as a sectional contender,” NP coach Jenny Musselman said. “I think a lot of people think that Connersville’s going to run away with it. But they’re not scoring that much higher than us.
“We’ve kind of been kept out of the rankings, which is okay with us because we like going in and sneaking around and surprising people.”
Tuesday, a balanced effort led the Dragons over the Golden Bears, another common sectional foe.
Kate Fee took the all around (35.275), vault (9.1) and balance beam (9.45) blue ribbons. Regan Elsea was tops on the uneven bars with an 8.675. And Kyle Zehner completed New Palestine’s first-place sweep an 8.275 on floor exercise.
Annabelle Dockins finished second in the all around (32.525) for the Dragons after finishing top-four in all individual events. Rylee Elsea took second on the floor (8.225) and was third in the all around.
Regan Elsea isn’t eligible to compete in the state tourney because she joined the team too late in the season, but the Dragons boast enough depth to grab a second straight sectional trophy, their coach contends.
“We have a lot of good individuals,” Musselman said. “As long as they all come together on the same day, it really shouldn’t be too big of a problem.
“Like I told the girls all season, all it takes is for (Connersville) to have just an okay meet and us to have a good one and we should still win.”
Connersville defeated New Palestine 100.3-97.55 in a season-opening tri-meet Jan. 14. Fellow sectional opponent New Castle was third with 94.775.
New Palestine will host Morristown, yet another sectional opponent, Thursday, then close out the regular season Saturday at New Castle. Both dual meets are make-ups of previously snowed-out contests.
Paced by the now-graduated Kenzi Hoffman, host New Palestine posted a 106.625 to capture its first sectional title since 2006 last season. Runner-up Franklin Central was more than three points behind.
Fee finished third in the sectional all around last year as a sophomore behind champ Hoffman. Fee took individual honors on the beam.
The IHSAA realigned the sectionals for this year, booting Franklin Central and Roncalli to the Columbus East Sectional while depositing Connersville, Richmond and a few others into a tourney with New Palestine.
The top three teams will advance out of the Connersville Sectional to the Columbus East Regional.
“We’re going to advance, there’s no other option,” Musselman said. “But we’re going to go for the win, because we can. The girls are capable.”
New Palestine 102.625, Shelbyville 87.225
All around: 1. Fee (NP) 35.275; 2. Dockins (NP) 32.525; 3. Ry. Elsea (NP) 30.55); 4. Zehner (NP) 30.05; 5. Diemer (SH) 29.625; 6. Weaver (SH) 28.4
Vault: 1. Fee (NP) 9.1; 2. Dockins (NP) 8.95; 3. Diemer (SH) 8.55; 4. Zehner (NP) 8.5; 5. Ry. Elsea (NP) 8.35; 6. Conner (SH) 8.2
Uneven bars: 1. Re. Elsea (NP) 8.675; 2. Fee (NP) 8.525; 3. Dockins (NP) 7.225; 4. Weaver (SH) 6.925; 5. Ry. Elsea (NP) 6.375; 6. Madden (SH) 6.25
Balance beam: 1. Fee (NP) 9.45; 2. Re. Elsea (NP) 9.25; 3. Dockins (NP) 8.25; 4. Ry. Elsea (NP) 7.6; 5. Zehner (NP) 7.275; 6. Pierce (SH) 7.0
Floor exercise: 1. Zehner (NP) 8.275; 2. Ry. Elsea (NP) 8.225; 3. Fee (NP) 8.2; 4. Dockins (NP) 8.1; 5. Diemer (SH) 8.0; 6. Pierce (SH) 7.3