‘Wonderful year’ comes to an end

The gymnastics team concluded what coach Cindy Guy called “a wonderful year” as Dana Cuykendall placed sixth in beam with a score of 9.3 and teammate Brooke Nall had a 9.1 for eighth in Saturday’s finals at the 3A WIAA State Gymnastics Championships at the Tacoma Dome.

It marked the first time that Bainbridge ever had two state finalists, and the first time the Spartans had had a finalist since 1985. It was also the Spartans’ highest individual finish since 1977 – “gymnastics was in its infancy as a high school sport then,” Guy said – when Lisa Okada won the same event.

“I thought they handled the pressure very well for a freshman (Nall) and sophomore (Cuykendall),” Guy said. “They were competing with girls who’ll have Division One scholarships.”

In addition, junior Emily Roche was one of eight girls named to the 3A All-State Academic team with a 3.957 GPA.

“We’re really proud of her,” said Guy. “It’s a pretty cool achievement.”

The three girls all competed in Friday’s team all-around competition. Cuykendall and Nall qualified for Saturday’s finals by finishing among the top ten in beam, scoring 9.275 and 9.075 respectively. Freshman Brittany Belt competed in bars, but senior Stephanie Hylen missed what would have been her final state meet because of an illness.

Nall finished tenth in all-around with 35.85 points.

“That was my second-best score this year,” she said, surpassed only by a 36.1 at the previous week’s regional meet. “That’s pretty good, since it came at state. It’s harder at state than club, because here you’re competing against everyone. In club everyone is the same level and age.”

She began with a fine floor exercise that netted her a score of 9.325, then followed with an 8.6 vault, 8.85 on bars and the 9.075 beam.

Cuykendall’s 35.4 all-around represented her season best. She had 9.15 on floor, 8.55 on vault, 8.425 on bars and her finals-qualifying 9.275 on beam.

“I was extremely nervous before floor,” she said. “I was just happy to get it over with first. Then I did kind of a weird vault, but my beam was one of the best routines I’ve done this year.”

Roche, who finished with 34.375 in all-around, said that “This wasn’t my best meet. I was disappointed that I fell on beam. But I had one of my highest bars scores, and my floor exercise was pretty good.” She began with 8.95 on floor, then had a team-high 8.7 vault, 8.3 on bars and 8.425 on beam.

Belt, a freshman in her first high school state meet – as a club gymnast in Connecticut, she had competed in state meets there – said she was “a little nervous. You come here and watch kids who are years above you. I had an average score (8.45, the team’s second-best), but the judges were scoring low on bars. Each judge looks for different things.”

Guy is already looking to next year.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had coaching,” she said. “I’m very optimistic. I think everyone will improve, and we’ll have some new kids. We should score 174 or higher regularly even with losing our seniors.”

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