MANASSAS –Beth Ploger had worried all week about the shootover release move on her uneven bars routine. She&$039;d executed it wonderfully in practice, though being airborne, even for just a split second, still gave Ploger the wiggins.
During afternoon practices, Osbourn Park&$039;s freshman all-arounder rehearsed it over and over again. She received instruction and encouragement from her teammates and constantly reminded herself not to drag her feet on the mat.
Through repetition she hoped to become comfortable with the hand grip and the timing so that letting go of the high bar would feel natural — and perhaps a bit less frightening — by Wednesday night.
When the Yellow Jackets opened the season with a dual meet victory over Hylton, Ploger&$039;s determination was rewarded. The first shootover of her varsity career was a resounding success and she had a fourth place finish to prove it.
“When I got my bars score I was so excited. I knew after that it was going to be a good meet,” she said, after helping Osbourn Park score 135.4 points.
Ploger&$039;s 8.6 wasn&$039;t her best score of the night, though it was undoubtedly the most meaningful. She earned her first 9.0 with a front handspring-full twist vault and also contributed fourth place finishes on balance beam and floor exercise.
“I came into the meet just looking for experience and to test things out,” said Ploger, who scored a 32.4 in the all-around competition — good for fourth place overall.
“It was so much fun,” she said. “I&$039;m just so happy with how I did, but even more happy about my my team did.”
Ploger contributed greatly to the Yellow Jackets&$039; success and figures to be a pivotal performer in the team&$039;s quest for Cedar Run District and Northwest Region championships. Osbourn Park used five all-arounders on Wednesday with junior Kelly Stevison sweeping top honors on all four individual events.
After working all summer to attain level 10 club status, Stevison showed off a few of her new skills en route to a season-opening 37.0 all-around score. Junior Ashley Keller scored a 9.0 on the uneven bars and finished second in the all-around (33.2) while sophomore Devon Alston placed third with a score of 32.8.
“Everyone was excited and we pulled it together,” Stevison said. “It was the first time competing for some of the girls and they did really well.”
Even with untested material, Stevison was in championship form. She scored a 9.3 on floor exercise, executed a punch front mount on the balance beam and landed a toe-front dismount on the uneven bars that earned the highest score of the meet with a 9.5.
“I wasn&$039;t sure if I&$039;d stand it up or not. It&$039;s really iffy,” Stevison said. “Sometimes I overturn it and land on my butt.”
There were no bad landings on Wednesday and only one fall — on a front toss midway through her balance beam routine. That was quickly forgotten.
By the end of opening night, the most vivid memory was Stevison&$039;s new Phelps vault: One that was every bit as dazzling as her renowned pike Tsukahara.
“I didn&$039;t really know what to expect,” Stevison said. “I wanted to put in some new skills. I fell on beam and that was disappointing, but bars definitely surprised me and I hit my vault. I was pretty happy.”