NEW PALESTINE — The smallest high school sport in Indiana in terms of participating teams, gymnastics isn’t difficult to scout.
With only 62 teams in the entire state, gymnastics programs have a good idea who their main competition will be at the sectional level and beyond.
That common knowledge is one reason Jenny Musselman wasn’t surprised her Kenzi Hoffman-led New Palestine gymnasts won a sectional championship last season, then finished second at the regional to advance to the state finals for the first time as a team since 2006. This year’s path to Worthen Arena at Ball State University — site of the state championships — is less clear.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge, whereas last year we breathed pretty easy knowing it was going to be us and Logansport 1-2, in some combination,” Musselman said of last year’s regional, where the top two teams moved on to state.
“Our two teams were leaps and bounds above the others, so we knew almost the whole season that we were probably going to state. This year it’s going to be a lot tougher.”
Hoffman won individual sectional titles in three of four possible events, plus the all-around, then finished third in the all-around in the regional as the Dragons (103.5 points) finished runner-up to Logansport (107.1). The prior week, New Palestine won its sectional with 106.625 points, more than three points ahead of runner-up Franklin Central, which also finished three points behind the Dragons at the regional.
At the State Finals, New Palestine took seventh place (104.625) behind teams such as state champ Portage (112.6), Columbus North (109.875) and Columbus East (107.660), who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
This season, not only has Hoffman graduated, but thanks to an IHSAA realignment of the state tourney, New Palestine will be tasked with facing Columbus North and Columbus East at the regional level.
The IHSAA reduced the number of gymnastics regionals from four to three; and three teams instead of two will now advance out of the regional.
“With the way they redid everything … we kind of know there’s going to be four teams vying for those top three spots,” Musselman said of the regional while including her squad, Columbus North, Columbus East and Connersville as the top four programs. “That’s a really hard regional.”