Senior sets the bar


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MANASSAS — The senior led and the freshman followed.

So did all the other Stonewall Jackson Raiders.

That’s the way it will probably be all season for the defending Cedar Run District champions. And if every meet turns out like Tuesday’s 136.1-128.4 victory over Woodbridge, that’s going to be just fine with everyone. Especially if Laura Hancock keeps winning all-around titles and Erin Stack continues to dazzle the way she did in her first varsity meet .

“There were a lot of nerves, but we worked it out,” Hancock said following a first-place all-around performance of 35.7 that was highlighted by her first successful 1 1/2 twist vault.

“We pulled it together and did really well. It exceeded expectations by far.”

The Raiders won without using any of their big skills on the uneven bars. For one night at least, they didn’t need them. Stonewall made up the difference by sweeping the top three places on vault and three of the top four on floor exercise.

Hancock earned the meet’s highest individual score with a 9.3 on vault and wrapped up the season’s initial all-around championship with a 9.0 on floor. Stack, a celebrated club performer, made a sparkling high school debut with a 9.2 on vault and a 35.0 all-around score — good enough for second place overall.

“I think we did really well as a team,” said Stack, who debuted a gorgeous floor routine after hitting a handspring-full twist vault and a flyaway dismount on the uneven bars.

“She’s sooooo cute,” Hancock said of the Raiders’ youngest team member. “You could tell she was nervous, especially on beam, but she nailed everything.”

That was the theme of the night for Stonewall — a team with six splendid all-arounders.

Hancock won the vault, the floor exercise and shared first place on the balance beam. Stack claimed top honors on the uneven bars, but the Raiders also had tremendous efforts from sophomores Carol Reed and Kelly Morris, junior Ann Itnyre and newcomer Isabelle Schumaker.

Reed tied Woodbridge senior Alicea Hall for fourth place overall with a score of 32.8, while Itnyre was close behind with a 32.2 effort that included a dramatic new floor routine. Schumaker scored a 30.6 and Morris added a 30.1 in the all-around.

That depth was enough to fend off the Vikings, who are young and only going to get better. For Woodbridge, the night wasn’t about winning or losing anyway. It was about saying hello and goodbye.

After taking a year off from club gymnastics, freshman Rosanna Decoud made her varsity debut on Tuesday with a pleasing third-place performance that included a back handspring flight series and front pike dismount on the balance beam as well as a promising first-time score of 8.7 on floor.

“I messed up my second pass but I still got a good score,” Decoud said. “I was really nervous. I hadn’t competed in a year. I was just trying to get through stuff and score as high as possible.

“I was proud of floor,” she added. “And I was proud of beam because I didn’t fall.”

A former Level 9 gymnast at Capital, Decoud edged Hall for the Vikings’ highest overall score, but what mattered most was the development of an exciting medal-winning duo. Together, they combined for 66.3 points on Tuesday and finished third and fourth overall.

That was as thrilling for the Vikings as watching Christy Hartman’s joyous performance on the balance beam and Johanna Mejia’s back handspring series on the floor exercise.

Those moments, which resulted in group hugs, and the blossoming of two star all-arounders, were more important than the final score for the Vikings. Mejia’s routines were of particular interest because they were her first and last of the season.

“It was awesome. It was so great. It was the best,” said Mejia, whose family is moving to New Hampshire. “I did two back handsprings in a row. I’ve been working it and I finally got it.”

In addition to her successful tumbling series on floor, Mejia also landed a straddle vault that had frightened her in warmups.

“I was very excited about that,” she said. “I don’t know how I got so scared.”

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