TACOMA – Zella Conley will tell you: It’s good to be a high school gymnast.
Conley, who trained in club gymnastics for more than a decade, made her second visit to the State 4A meet a pleasant one as the junior from Mead placed fifth in the all-around Friday night at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.
Conley posted a score of 37.125 points, two places ahead of Ferris junior Jessica Harpel (36.775) University finished fifth in the team race with 169.65 points.
Woodinville (180.225) won its fourth straight 4A title, going unbeaten in all meets all four years. Camas (175.425), Bothell (172.775) and Emerald Ridge of Puyallup (170.225) preceded U-Hi.
Conley, who posted the meet’s highest score on vault (9.725) after landing a well-executed Tsukahara pike, qualified for Saturday’s 4A individual finals on that event and floor exercise, where she posted a 9.4, and uneven bars (9.15)
Harpel, with a 9.55 on balance beam (second-best score of the night), 9.5 on vault and 9.475 on floor, will compete for an individual crown in all three of those events. U-Hi’s Anna Johnson will compete on bars and Demri Oglesbee will compete on floor.
In the 3A/2A individual finals earlier in the day, senior Reigan Kampmann of Mt. Spokane took home a third-place medal for a floor routine that earned a score of 9.575. Kampmann also placed fifth on vault (9.5).
Shadle Park junior Brooklynn Tarr finished fourth on vault (9.525), 10th on bars (8.975) and 11th on beam (8.825).
Conley, in her second year of high school gymnastics after rising to Level 9 as a club gymnast, was happy with all aspects of her performance.
“I felt like all my events were good,” she said. “I had a little mistake on beam (score: 8.9), but I’m not going to let one mistake get me down.”
“She was outstanding,” Mead coach Laurie Chadwick said, “She had this one little misstep on beam that is not normal for her, but I thought she did an excellent job focusing on all the things we’ve been trying to improve on”
Conley, 17, trained 11 years in a club environment before walking away after her freshman year
“High school is a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s more team-related. It helps a lot during an event to have people cheering for you. My gymnastics has gone better here than it did at club.”
Without club, she found time to compete on the track team. Last year she placed third at state in the 4A 100-meter hurdles, seventh in 300 hurdles.
“My dad thought it would be a good idea for me to try hurdles, and it turned out pretty good,” Conley said. “My gymnastics training helps a lot.”
Chadwick is delighted with the progress shown by Conley, who qualified just two individual finals a year ago.
“She is way better than last year,” Chadwick said. “She brings more confidence with her now. She’s shown more consistency, and she’s shown a good grasp of the skills that can add to the value of her routines.”
Conley, who sat out her freshman year after breaking her left foot, agrees.
“The more repetitions I do during practice have made every meet easier,” she said. “I don’t have to try and do it harder at a meet because I have that confidence now. That can really mess you up if you try so much harder at a meet than when you normally do it.”