Raiders rewarded for hard work at Winterfest

STAFFORD — Laura Hancock sprawled out on the gymnasium floor with the rest of her Stonewall Jackson teammates Saturday afternoon anxiously waiting for the awards ceremony to begin.

It had been a day of nearly unparalled success for the Raiders and they were eager to reap the rewards of their performance at the Winterfest Invitational.

“We’re all kind of bouncing off the walls,” said Hancock, who was perhaps the most giddy Raider of all. At least that would explain the smiley face she had taped to the back of her warmup pants.

“The level of gymnasts who were here today pushed us to do better,” Hancock said. “I was very wowed.”

During a competition dominated by Central Region powerhouse Atlee (111.4 points) and defending Northwest Region champion Stafford (109.45), the Raiders did some wowing of their own. Hancock especially.

The Stonewall Jackson junior performed two full twists during her floor exercise routine and finally stood up a 1 1/2 twist vault that she’s been working on for weeks to lead the Raiders to fourth place overall. With scores of 9.3 on floor, 9.1 on vault and 9.225 on the uneven bars, Hancock earned the best all-around total of her career — a 36.575.

“Laura’s been doing so well,” Stonewall senior Adriana Harvey said. “She’s hitting everything.”

As the Raiders returned to their bus for a 45-minute ride home, Hancock still had a medal draped around her neck. She accumulated two in all, plus a pair of ribbons in Stonewall’s final meet prior to Saturday’s Cedar Run District championships.

Harvey and freshman Carol Reed also earned individual honors, while sophomore Ann Itnyre gave the best all-around performance of her life against an 11-team field that was split into two divisions Green and Blue.

“This meet was very good to boost our confidence for regionals,” said Harvey, whose 35.85 all-around score was a season-high. “It was really great to see some of the teams we don’t normally get to compete against. Now we know the challenge ahead and it will make us work harder.”

The Raiders also found out a little more about themselves with a 107.625 effort that featured a second-place vault by Reed and Itnyre’s first competitive attempts at giants on the uneven bars.

“We’re very, very proud of Ann,” Harvey said. “She keeps improving and trying new things.”

With six individual event scores of 9.0 or higher, the Raiders weren’t far off the pace set by Atlee and Stafford.

Nobody really came close to beating Atlee’s Ashley Wilkerson in the all-around competition. Her 38.2 was a standard unmatched, but the next six spots were separated by less than a point.

It took a career-high 36.95 for Stafford’s Jennifer Little to edge Atlee’s Kristen Duke (36.875) for second place.

The team competition was equally suspenseful with Atlee claiming two of the top three all-around scores and Stonewall placing three — Hancock, Harvey and Reed — among the top 10.

Osbourn Park, competing in its only invitational of the winter and without star all-arounder Kelly Stevison, finished sixth in the Blue Division, but the Yellow Jackets considered it a successful venture into a new venue

“We’re all so excited,” freshman Beth Ploger said. “There’s so much competition so it made us work harder.”

While Stevison spent most the of day taking the SAT exam, Ploger and sophomore Devon Alston played the role of team leaders.

Ploger placed fourth on the uneven bars with a personal-best score of 9.375 and wound up with a 33.975 in the all-around — another career high. Alston, who tied Ploger for sixth on vault with a 9.05, finished the day with the team’s highest all-around total — a season-best 34.2.

Ashley Keller, who also placed on vault for the Yellow Jackets, scored 33.65 in the all-around.

North Stafford, behind Nikki Doke’s 36.0 all-around effort, captured the Green Division championship, topping Commonwealth District rival Brooke Point, 96.275-91.5. Doke, who won individual titles on the balance beam (8.8), vault (9.2), and uneven bars (9.25), was in a class by herself in the invitational’s lower division.

Colonial Forge’s Brittany Kube claimed first place on the floor exercise and was second in the all-around with a 34.125. Kimber Glines, of Brooke Point, was third with a score of 34.10.

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