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April 3, 2009

Walter Johnson sneaks past Blair gymnastics

by Rose Wynn, Online Sports Editor
NELSON H. KOBREN GYMNASIUM, April 2 -

In a close meet Thursday, Blair gymnastics fell slightly short of Walter Johnson 159.6 to 156.5, as senior Anna Hadfield placed second on bars and third on vault while sophomore Taylor Smith ranked third on both bars and beam. In the all-around score, Hadfield took third, Smith placed and senior Abby Cember ranked sixth.

While the Blazers delivered cleaner moves and more solid landings than at their first meet, the performances could not quite top Walter Johnson's consistency, as the visitors took first and second in most events. Coach Hillary Wynn recognized that the girls had improved significantly in this event since their first meet. "We did quite a bit better," she said. "I'm very satisfied overall."

The Blair team members were also satisfied with their performance. "We had a huge increase in our overall score," Hadfield commented. "It was really close and I'm proud of us. I think we did well today."

In anticipation of their next tri-meet against Springbrook and Gaithersburg, Wynn hopes the Lady Blazers will be more solid in their landings and sharpen their performances in events other than vault and beam. "We need to work on sticking with no wobbles and bringing up bar and floor scores," she said. Regardless of these imperfections, Wynn was pleased with the meet's results. "The scores were higher, the moves were cleaner and we stuck more landings," she said.

While vaulting, Blair gymnasts demonstrated tight, sharp form and strong stability. Senior Abby Cember, who placed sixth with a score of 8.2, soared over the vault with a clean front handspring. Despite cheers from her teammates, she was not entirely satisfied with her performance. "I think I did better than last time, but there is always stuff to work on," she said. Hadfield, who stole third in the event, approached with power and displayed strong stability as she twisted over the vault.

Walter Johnson showed immense power that sent the vaulting girls flying high into the air with scores of 9.2 and 9.7. For some, the height and strength of their technique was overbearing; many landed uneasily and one gymnast completely collapsed as she fell to her knees after performing a front tuck. Despite this uneasiness, the girls managed to execute complicated flips with vigorous energy.

On bars, the Lady Blazers turned smoothly as they flew from bar to bar. Hadfield, who stole second place with an 8.2, exuded confidence and strength as she stuck a perfect landing after a difficult routine. "I started out really well," she admitted. "I pulled out a skill I hadn't done in years and did it successfully."

Sophomore Claire Hoffman executed smooth transitions with certitude, and Smith demonstrated amazing power. "I think we were solid," Cember said. "People weren't having big problems."

While Walter Johnson impressed spectators with their advanced technique on bars, they faltered slightly on their landings. The highest scorer received first place with a 9.3.
In their next event, Blair showed significant improvement from their last meet by exhibiting grace and stability on the beam. Smith, who received an 8.5, demonstrated flexibility and advanced technique with split leaps and an aerial dismount.

Hadfield performed a back handspring in perfect balance, remaining stable throughout a series of complicated jumps and placing fourth with an 8.4. After graceful turns, an effortless backward shoulder roll and a clean round-off dismount, junior Lily Felsenthal placed sixth with a 7.7. Hoffman and Cember also delivered notable performances as they executed clean turns and steady, graceful movements.

Wynn noted Blair's improvement on the beam. "Last meet we fell off the beam seven times," she said. "This meet we only fell off two times."

Walter Johnson gymnasts were slightly uncomfortable with turns on the beam, and fell frequently. Their moves were hasty, although two girls managed to demonstrate astounding flexibility and technique. The team stole first and second place with scores of 9.1 and 8.7.

In their final event on floor, Blair delivered with grace and careful technique. Smith, who placed fourth with an 8.3, smiled during her entire routine as she performed split jumps with ease and a series of back flips. Cember executed a smooth back walkover and clean landings, which granted her sixth place with an 8.0.

Hadfield, who received an 8.2 and ranked fifth, managed impressive flexibility, but was not entirely satisfied with her performance. "I kind of petered out after [bars], but it was still a fun meet," she said.

Walter Johnson impressed on floor with difficult technique and clean landings. The girls stole the top three spots for the event, and Cember admitted that the team was difficult to beat. "Walter Johnson had more depth than we expected," she remarked.

Despite the tough competition, Hadfield was able to receive beneficial recommendations for improvement. "We had a great judge," she said. The judge reviewed each gymnast's routine and identified areas of improvement. Hadfield discovered that she can incorporate bonus elements in her routines, which will automatically grant her two tenths of a point if she can perform two difficult skills consecutively.

But Cember emphasized that the entire team had room for improvement. "I think everyone should work on hitting routine after routine," she said. "Then the small problems get ironed out."

The next girls' gymnastics meet will be held at Blair against Gaithersburg and Springbrook on April 16 at 5 p.m.



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