Smithfield: Sports

Clayton, Panther Creek win state gymnastics championships

Clayton team places 1st in the Large Team division. The North Carolina High School State Gymnastics Championships took place in Raleigh, N.C. on Saturday, January 31, 2015.
Clayton team places 1st in the Large Team division. The North Carolina High School State Gymnastics Championships took place in Raleigh, N.C. on Saturday, January 31, 2015. PHOTOS BY FABIAN RADULESCU

Clayton’s upset of Green Hope in the state Large Team gymnastics championship on Saturday at the Raleigh School of Gymnastics was so improbable that not even Comets coach Margaret Morgan-Lee believed it would happen. Green Hope had won the last three state titles and had not lost a meet all season.

But the Falcons fell .35 points – Clayton won 150.4 to 150.05 – from a fourth consecutive championship and the Comets came out on top.

“Not expected, totally not expected,” Morgan-Lee said. “Armand (Kranick of RSG) came up to me and asked me on floor, ‘Do you think you have a chance to win this thing? I was like, ‘Not a chance.’

“When it came out, I was very surprised. Pleased, but surprised.”

Clayton placed three gymnasts in the top 10 in the all-around to claim the first state title for the program. Plus, this was the first year Clayton participated in the Large Team competition.

In Large Team, schools can enter five gymnasts in each event, with the top four scores counting to the team score. In Small Team, three or four athletes per school compete, with the top three scores counting. The state championships are not affiliated with the N.C. High School Athletic Association as the NCHSAA does not have gymnastics as a sanctioned sport.

“Shocking,” Morgan-Lee said. “First time in Large Team, and (we) came in and won it.”

And how will the Comets celebrate?

“We’re going to Waffle House,” sophomore Sloane Patterson said with a laugh.

Patterson finished third in all-around and was in the top four in all events. Madyson Scott tied for fifth in all-around, with freshman Jessica Joslyn tying for 10th.

The Comets also got clutch performances from Kaitlyn Cron (tied for sixth on beam) and Avery Moser (sixth on floor) to hold off Green Hope.

“It’s really big for us,” Patterson said. “Last year, we got fourth, and to come and win conference and states is really cool. We’re a better team as a whole, and there are more of us.”

Green Hope was without senior Shailyn Ramsey, who dislocated her knee Friday night, and freshman Gretchen Mackie, who had a sprained ankle. Coach Cindy Cotten’s diminished team put up a valiant fight – led by sophomore Sabriyya Rouse’s dominant performance.

“Very disappointing, especially for my seniors, because they had won state championships every year,” Cotten said. “To not get it their senior year – that’s the pinnacle of their high school career – it’s definitely disappointing for them.”

Rouse won three events – vault, bars and beam – and finished second to Millbrook’s Lydia Sobhan on floor to win the all-around title.

“I worked really hard,” Rouse said. “I’m also a gymnast outside of high school, so it feels good to know that my hard work paid off. This was one of my better meets.”

Millbrook finished third in the team competition with 148.95 points.

In the All-Stars portion of Large Team, Athens Drive’s Sam Orebaugh won all-round and tied with Sara Watson of South Columbus on vault. Watson also won bars.

April Bass of Wilmington’s Ashley High won beam, with Garner’s Lauren Rogers winning on floor.

Davis shines in Small Team competition

Corinth Holders junior Lydia Davis was the star of the first night of the meet, earning a perfect 10.0 on floor and winning the all-around title to cap a stellar comeback from a back injury.

“It’s hard physically, just because gymnastics is a hard sport,” Davis said. “But mentally, it’s been even harder just because it was such a big injury. Trying to get back to high school and level 10 has been tough, but I’m excited to get back.”

In addition to her floor title, Davis tied for first with Middle Creek’s Elizabeth Farin on bars and tied for first with Farin and Panther Creek’s Maria Esposto on beam. Plus, she was second to Esposto on vault.

“It was kind of unexpected,” said Davis, who won an all-around state title as a freshman. “It was amazing. I think I had my best meet of the season tonight. It’s when it counts.”

Panther Creek won the team championship, the Catamounts’ first since 2009 for coach Krystal Kramer.

Esposto was second in all-around and beam and was third on bars. Teammate Gabrielle Labrozzi finished ninth in the all-around, as PC topped Middle Creek for the Small Team title. Holly Springs was third as the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference swept the top three.

In Small Team All-Stars, Ta’Nia Thompson of Cleveland won all-around, vault and floor, while Cierra Davis of Princeton won bars and Tara Schwagerl of Hoggard won floor.