MUNCIE – DéjÀ vu was all over the place again, as the clock leaned toward 5 p.m. in Worthen Arena on the campus of Ball State University on Saturday.
Once more, same as two years ago, it was down to nine-time state champion Valparaiso and five-time champ Bishop Dwenger in the state gymnastics meet, with three rotations down and one to go.
Once more, same as two years ago, all that stood between Dwenger and a sixth title was four inches – the 4-inch width of the balance beam, the Saints’ last rotation of the day.
This time they couldn’t quite turn it into a four-lane highway.
That’s because Valparaiso’s last rotation was the more-scoreable floor exercise, and the Viking scored. Their 28.350 was their third plus-28 score, and they edged Dwenger 111.850, Dwenger 111.25.
Carroll finished sixth at 105.275. Dwenger was led by Alexis Eddy who finished second in the floor exercise and tied for third in the beam.
Then there was Angola senior Alex Nickel, who did turn the beam into a four-lane highway.
Nickel threw a 9.525 at the field as the very first beam competitor of the day, and it stood up for a state championship. It was Nickel’s third individual state title – and it was the gaudy bow on a day in which she also tied for third in floor exercise, finished third in the all-around and won the Mildred M. Ball Mental Attitude Award.
It’s a very special award, obviously. I’m very proud of it, Nickel said.
And the beam?
I didn’t really know if it was gonna be good enough to hold through the whole meet, but I try not to worry about it, said Nickel. Of course, at the regionals I fell twice, so it was nice to come back and redeem myself at state.
As for the Saints, they stood third to Valparaiso and Portage after the first rotation, but a sterling effort in the vault – they eclipsed everyone with a 28.300 team score – pushed them into first place after two rotations, 56.225 to Valpo’s 56.150.
That left the bars and beam. The Saints posted a 27.750 on the bars, second only to Valpo’s 28.050.
That sent Dwenger into the fourth and final rotation with a precarious 83.975-83.500 lead over the Vikings – and into familiar territory, with everything riding on those treacherous four inches of the beam.
Dwenger coach Rose Nix knew what the Saints were up against.
It is easier (to score in floor exercise) because you can correct an error if you have one, but like on the beam if you have an error you’re on the ground, she said. So that makes a big difference.
Big enough, in this case, for the Saints to finish as state runners-up for the eighth time.
I think we have the state record for runners-up, and we added to that today, Nix said with a chuckle. But I think really on whole they did the best that they could do in every event. It’s unfortunate we had a couple falls. That wasn’t in the plan. But it happens.
I think the girls have to come away from this knowing they put everything out there and it just wasn’t to be their day today. The cards didn’t go our and way and that was unfortunate, but like I said, they should be proud that they have won second place.