Tears and cheers for Stonewall

WOODBRIDGE — Laura Hancock couldn’t understand why her mother was crying Saturday afternoon.

The Stonewall Jackson junior had just completed the gymnastics performance of her life and she bounded giddily into the bleachers at Woodbridge High School to share her good fortune.

It was smiles and hugs Hancock was looking for. Tears caught her completely off guard.

went to talk to my mom after the meet and she was crying,” Hancock said. “I was like ‘what’s that all about’.”

The reason was simple enough.

As Hancock soon discovered, the performance of her life had been even better than she anticipated.

On a day when the Raiders were officially anointed the best gymnastics team in the new Cedar Run District, Hancock was crowned its inaugural queen.

After injuries prevented her from even reaching the postseason the last two years, Hancock overcame a bout with the flu and finally got an opportunity to showcase her magnificent skills during one of the year’s biggest events.

With a first-place floor exercise routine and a second-place showing on the uneven bars, Hancock captured the district’s all-around championship — scoring a personal-best four-event total of 36.675. She was one of four Stonewall gymnasts to finish in the top six overall as the Raiders combined efforts to produce their highest team score of the winter in a 143.15-139.65 victory over Osbourn Park.

“I knew I had to go big,” Hancock said. “We’ve had a great year and we wanted to keep going like we had been.”

Though she spent much of the day huddled under a blanket to ward off chills, Hancock delivered some of the meet’s hottest routines: scoring a 9.55 on the floor, a 9.425 on the uneven bars and a 9.1 on vault. Even with a fall on the balance beam, she was good enough to edge teammate Carol Reed (36.175) and Osbourn Park junior Kelly Stevison (36.0) in the all-around.

Reed, whose terrific freshman season helped elevate Stonewall into championship contention, won the district balance beam title with a score of 9.05 and senior Adriana Harvey continued her triumphant farewell tour by claiming the uneven bars title.

“That’s kind of how our team is. We know when to pull together,” Hancock said. “We definitely wanted to be the first sport at our school to win a district title in the Cedar Run.”

The Raiders’ volleyball team nearly pulled off that feat in the fall — winning a share of the regular season championship and finishing second in the district tournament. The girls basketball program is currently tied for first place, but it was the Stonewall gymnasts who won the race to make school history.

Osbourn Park nearly foiled the Raiders’ attempt thanks to Stevison’s championship tsukahara vault (9.525) and career-best all-around efforts from junior Ashley Keller (34.875) and freshman Beth Ploger (34.525). But, like they did in each of their two regular season triumphs over the Yellow Jackets, the Raiders prevailed by cleaning up on the floor.

Stonewall earned the highest event score of the night with a 36.875 on the floor — a fitting finish to a competition that once again went down to the final rotation.

“In the beginning of the year I don’t think people took our team seriously,” sophomore Ann Itnyre said. “I think we proved ourselves the last two months.

“We worked so hard all year. To not make it pay off here was not an option,” Itnyre continued. “We were determined to make a good showing.”

Itnyre did her part by scoring a 34.675 in the all-around — her highest point total of the season. Her sixth-place finish was highlighted by a 9.125 on the floor exercise as well as regional-qualifying performances on vault, uneven bars and balance beam.

Freshman Kelly Morris earned regional berths on balance beam and floor exercise, while Harvey scored a 9.15 on the uneven bars and qualified for the Northwest Region Meet for the fourth straight year as an all-arounder.

Harvey, who was also fatigued by illness, scored a 35.525 to place fourth overall.

“All year we’ve been building, building, building. This is when we needed to show what we have,” Harvey said. “It’s amazing how far this team has come. This brought much joy.”

And even a few tears.

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