After the Woodbridge Vikings suffered their first loss to a Prince William County team in more than three years Saturday afternoon, senior all-arounder Rebecca Ruppert vowed it would never happen again.
At least not while she’s on the squad.
Motivated in part by their second place finish at the Courtland Holiday Classic, the Vikings set out to prove Wednesday night that their loss to Stonewall Jackson last weekend was a one-time thing. Ruppert won three events and another individual all-around title with a season-best score of 37.6 as Woodbridge defeated Gar-Field 137.15-134.45.
“Our goal was to come out here and hit,” said Ruppert, who received a meet-high 9.7 for her front handspring-front one-and-a-half tuck vault and scored a 9.5 on the balance beam.
“We were really psyched. We were home and we had so many people come out,” Ruppert continued. “It was great.”
The Vikings were psyched for another reason as well. In addition to combining for their highest team score of the year, they had an opportunity to compare their skills with rival Osbourn Park.
“It was the first time we’ve seen Gar-Field and OP this season,” Ruppert said. “It was a big meet. All the top teams were here. It was like do what you’ve got to do.”
Though their only official triumph came against Gar-Field, the Vikings left the gym knowing that they’d out-scored Osbourn Park and Stonewall Jackson — the two county teams seriously capable of challenging them for a state meet berth.
“It was a competition between the four teams whether they want to put that in the book or not,” said Ruppert, who captured top honors on vault, floor and balance beam.
It took Ruppert’s fourth championship performance, a season-high all-around effort from Alicea Hall and a career-best balance beam routine from Jana Hester for Woodbridge to fend off the Indians. Hall, who earned ribbons on vault, uneven bars and balance beam, scored a 32.85 to place fifth in the all-around, while Hester finished second on beam with a score of 8.9 — just one-tenth of a point shy of her season goal.
Hester placed sixth in the all-around with a 32.5 and Denise Flowers was third overall with a score of 34.4 that included a 9.0 on floor exercise.
“We just wanted to go out there and see how we could perform against everyone,” Flowers said. “We’re all planning on putting new skills in. We want to get a 138.”
All four teams have a chance to reach that milestone this winter. The Indians have the farthest ground to cover but they’ve already made significant strides. With the emergence of Ashley Lienau as a fourth all-arounder, Gar-Field improved its team score by more than six points on Wednesday and pushed the Vikings to the final rotation.
Lienau scored a 31.35 in her first all-around performance of the season — highlighted by a second-place floor routine that earned a 9.05 — and the Indians out-scored Woodbridge on three of the four events. Senior Tricia Smith scored a season-best 35.4 to finish second in the all-around and junior Megan Sullivan (34.05) was fourth overall. Sophomore Tracy Cloninger won the uneven bars competition with a score of 9.4.
STEVISON WINS SECOND ALL-AROUND TITLE
Kelly Stevison’s quest for an all-around championship didn’t start off very well Wednesday night. Osbourn Park’s junior star fell out of her toe-front dismount when her foot slipped on the high bar.
It took Stevison three attempts to finally complete her dismount and the 8.4 score she received was more than a full point of her season high.
“It was a really competitive meet and it started off kind of rough, which was disappointing,” Stevison said.
The disappointment continued into the second rotation when Stevison fell on her combination series. She lost a half-point for the stumble, but a difficult punch-front mount helped made amends. She scored a 9.0 and wound up placing first on the event.
“After bars and beam I was really nervous. If you’ve already made a mistake you don’t want to make another,” Stevison said. “I figured I’d just go out after that and have fun.”
Stevison thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the night. She won the floor exercise with a 9.4 — her highest score of the season — and finished first on vault: turning a pike Tsukahara and a Phelps into another 9.4.
With three individual first place ribbons, Stevison edged Stonewall Jackson senior Adriana Harvey for the all-around title. Harvey, who also enjoyed her best meet of the season, scored a 35.65 to take second place in the all-around, but the Raiders won the meet’s top honor with a 136.3-136.05 victory.
“We were definitely psyched to see OP and compare ourselves,” Harvey said. “It’s amazing how close the teams are.”
Since opening the season with a dual meet loss to the Vikings, Stonewall Jackson earned two confidence-boosting triumphs within a four-day span. The Raiders beat Woodbridge to capture the Courtland Holiday Classic on Saturday and followed that with a dual meet win over their Cedar Run District rivals
“Always improve. That’s our motto,” Stonewall junior Laura Hancock said. “The last two meets have been so exciting. I’m so proud of us. We’re pulling together so well.”
Hancock scored a season-best 34.55 in the all-around to claim third place overall, while Ann Itnyre and freshman Carol Reed tied for sixth with a 32.95. That was just enough to outlast the Yellow Jackets, who earned their highest team score of the season behind season-best all-around performances from junior Ashley Keller (33.5) and freshman Beth Ploger (33.4).
“We knew how well they’d done Saturday and we wanted to keep up with that level and improve on our team score. We did that,” Stevison said. “Everything now is just leading up to districts.”
KEATING ENJOYING RETURN TO GYMNASTICS
A fall off the balance beam two years ago scared Erin Keating away from club gymnastics.
Even after her broken arm and dislocated elbow healed, Keating wasn’t ready to return to the gym. So she tucked away her level 7 skills and waited for a chance to perform again in a less frightening environment.
This winter, Keating found the right opportunity when the Osbourn Park Yellow Jackets lured her out of retirement.
“At first I was really nervous. Now it’s much more relaxed and I’m having fun,” said Keating, who is also a competitve equestrian and president of the 4-H Horse Club. “I love this team. I’m really hoping to contribute this year.”
A freshman all-arounder on one of the area’s deepest and most-talented squads, Keating has quickly become an essential part of Osbourn Park’s quest for a state-meet berth. She has changed the back handspring element of her beam routine, opting instead for a less scary back walkover combination series. But many of her club skills are still apparent.
Keating uses a tuck flyaway dismount on the uneven bars, is working on a back tuck for her floor routine and wants to attempt a handspring-halftwist vault before the season ends in February.
She scored a 29.3 in the all-around in Wednesday’s meet against Stonewall Jackson — nearly a two-point improvement over her debut performance two weeks ago. The accomplishment was rewarding, but not as significant as her ultimate goal.
“I just want to do my best and have fun,” Keating said. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”