Raiders reach potential

SPOTSYLVANIA — Stonewall Jackson High School senior Adriana Harvey didn’t think her weekend could get any better after she received an acceptance letter from Georgetown University in the mail on Friday.

As it turned out, the postman delivered only a portion of the good news.

The Raiders’ gymnastics team provided the rest by winning the Courtland Holiday Classic on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s been a good weekend. Overwhelming in a way,” Harvey said after leading Stonewall Jack-son to its highest team score of the season.

Still glowing from her academic achievement, Harvey earned a second place finish in the all-around with a season-best score of 35.6 and the Raiders edged reigning Cardinal District champion Woodbridge, 136.975-135.225, to claim the Blue Division’s top prize.

“We knew it was very close,” Harvey said. “We were determined to give it our all and not hold anything back. All along, we knew if we hit our elements and stayed focused we had a chance.”

Inspired by a bus-ride pep talk from junior Laura Hancock, Stonewall Jackson showcased the talents of five gymnasts and, for the first time in three meets, excelled in every event. Freshman Carol Reed, who is rapidly emerging as the program’s next big star, earned the best all-around score of her fledgling career and the Raiders produced the highest team scores of the meet on vault (35.2) and uneven bars (35.075) to become the first Prince William County squad to defeat Woodbridge since the 1997-98 season.

“The first two meets were kind of disappointing,” Harvey said. “Tonight we realized our potential.”

Stonewall Jackson’s transformation began on Wednesday when Hancock initiated an inspirational chat following a dual meet victory over Hylton. Though they’d won, the Raiders weren’t satisfied with their 133. 25 score or their inconsistent performances on uneven bars and balance beam. As they discussed ways to improve their routines, Hancock challenged her teammates and they responded.

“I was really impressed with the way they handled it,” Stonewall Jackson coach Karen Lutman said. “Instead of being negative they were really motivated.”

On Thursday, the Raiders reviewed score sheets, analyzed video tape and began making the corrections that led to Saturday’s first-place effort.

“We found we can be pretty good if we try,” Reed said as Stonewall celebrated its first invitational championship since winning the green division team title at Winterfest during Harvey’s sophomore season.

Retired from club gymnastics and two years removed from her reign as the Cardinal District’s premier all-arounder, Harvey once again had the look and smile of a champion on Saturday. A roundoff-backhandspring-layout series on the floor exercise was the highlight of a runner-up performance in that event. Harvey connected a back handspring series on her second-place balance beam routine and finished third with a full-twist vault.

For a brief moment, Harvey even challenged Woodbridge senior Rebecca Ruppert for the all-around title. She led after two events, but Ruppert pulled away during the final two rotations — using a front flyaway dismount to win the uneven bars (9.3) and then earning a share of first place with a 9.2 on her best event: vault.

Ruppert also won the floor exercise (9.075) and placed third on balance beam (8.65) to earn a 36.225 overall score.

“I thought about winning the all-around, but Rebecca’s been working so hard and is an awesome athlete,” Harvey said. “We were mostly focused on team. That’s what we really wanted.”

The Raiders prevailed with ribbon-winning routines from all five performers. Reed tied Ruppert for first place on vault and finished fifth in the all-around with a score of 34.275. Hancock took second on the uneven bars en route to a sixth place showing in the all-around, Ann Itnyre placed on vault and bars and freshman Kelly Morris was seventh on the balance beam.

Prince William County gymnasts took most of the spots on the award’s podium, claiming six of the top eight all-around scores and seven of the top eight scores on vault and uneven bars. That provided a small measure of consolation for the Vikings.

“We’re all a little disappointed actually, but this will fuel the fire for the rest of the year,” Ruppert said. “We know we have competition and we haven’t had competition for the past three years.”

While Woodbridge and Stonewall Jackson left with team trophies, Brooke Point freshman Kimber Glines and Colonial Forge’s Kerrian Galloway were among the individual winners in the silver division.

Glines finished second on the uneven bars (9.175) and balance beam (8.15), while Galloway placed seventh on floor exercise and beam.

The Vikings’ top awards went to Ruppert, but they shared the wealth on each event. Senior Denise Flowers finished fourth in the all-around with a score of 34.4 and junior Alicea Hall placed eighth overall with a season-best effort of 32.725. Senior Jana Hester also received a sixth-place ribbon on the vault for the Vikings, who eclipsed the 135-point plateau for the second time in three competitions, but finished 1.75 points behind the champion Raiders.

“It was their day. No doubt about it,” Woodbridge coach Sue Bonacquisti said. “We’re happy for them.”

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