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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Angola gymnast Alex Nickel is looking to improve on back-to-back second-place finishes at state.

Gymnast keeps raising the bar

Angola’s Nickel aims to improve on 2nd place

– By a lot of gymnasts’ standards, last year would be considered a success. But not when you raise the bar as high as Angola senior Alex Nickel.

Two years ago as a sophomore, Nickel won two events at the state finals in the uneven bars (9.750) and balance beam (9.600) while also coming in second in the all-around (38.000). As a follow-up as a junior, she was again second in the all-around (38.150) and finished second in floor (9.625), third in bars (9.625), tied for sixth in the vault (9.700) and tied for seventh in the beam (9.200).

And if this is the year of redemption, it didn’t get off to the best start for Nickel.

“Last year was certainly frustrating but the summer and beginning of this season was even worse,” Nickel said.

Nickel missed a majority of summer training and competition with torn cartilage in her wrist and a stress fracture in her foot. Then the Hornets got caught up in the cold and snowy winter weather that affected northeast Indiana athletic scheduling with Angola competing in only one invitational and five meets.

“I think that under those circumstances, I have dealt with my adversity very well,” Nickel said.

Nickel said she enters the postseason, which begins Saturday with the sectional, pretty much back to her old self. She is ranked 11th in the state in all-around (37.300), fourth in the beam (9.600) and eighth in the floor (9.700) and bars (9.600).

“I am back to where I was skill-wise last year, and I’ve even added in some more difficult skills to my routines that I didn’t have last year,” Nickel said. “I don’t believe I have peaked. I’m very proud of myself for getting back in the game, and I’m still improving.”

A good showing at the sectional and regional will put Nickel in a good position for the state finals March 22 at Ball State.

“Consistency is going to be my biggest battle, and that’s the risk you take when you compete high level skills,” Nickel said. “I’ve always been one to set myself apart with unique difficult skills rather than do some safe watered-down routine. For example on the beam, I do an aerial and a back handspring back layout which most girls don’t do either of. I risk falling for that.

“I’m very motivated, confident, and I don’t feel like I’ve really had a chance to show everyone my best yet this year, so I’m ready to enjoy my last few meets and leave everything out on the floor. My circumstances have certainly not been ideal, but that’s gymnastics for you. Anything can happen.”

gjones@jg.net

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