TACOMA – Mead senior Zella Conley, still working her way back to peak form after seriously dislocating her right ankle in December, was just happy to be ready to compete at the State 4A gymnastics team and all-around finals.
The fact that she placed sixth in all-around with a score of 37.2 points Friday night at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall was an excellent bonus.
“I knew I was going to be able to come back, but I didn’t think I would be to come back as far as I have,” said Conley, the reigning State 4A floor exercise and vault champion, who will seek to defend those titles in Saturday’s individual finals.
Conley’s performance helped Mead place fifth in the eight-team 4A field with a score of 172.125. Camas of Vancouver, with a score of 181.2, ending a four-year string of state championships for Woodinville, which posted a 180.125. North Creek, a first-year school in Bothell, took third with 173.75. Emerald Ridge of Puyallup finished fourth (172.2).
Lexi McKnight of Kentridge won the all-around title (38.05). Jessica Harpel of Ferris finished third with a total of 37.6. She posted the meet’s highest score on balance beam (9.525).
After injuring her ankle while performing a twisting uneven bars dismount in practice during the third week of December, Conley did not compete again until Mead’s final league meet at the end of January.
“I don’t feel like she’s back to 100 percent of her form,” Mead coach Laurie Chadwick said. “She’s doing her skills, but her form isn’t quite as polished because she missed so much time, especially the skills on vault and floor that require so much punching.”
How did she look on Friday?
“Solid,” Chadwick said. “If she hadn’t been injured, her score probably would have been a half-point higher. She would have had her back tuck on beam, a one-and-a-half on floor, a little bit better execution with her legs and her vault would have been cleaner. But she was just solid.”
Conley, a long-time club gymnast who did not join her high school team until her sophomore season, will attend Central Washington this fall on a track scholarship. Years of training in kicks, leaps and splits have helped turn Conley into an excellent hurdler.
“As a sprinter I’m fast, but not super-fast,” Conley said. “Skimming over hurdles is the best part of the race for me. Gymnastics helps me the most when I’m going over.”
She estimated her was “85, maybe 90 percent” of her optimal self in Friday’s competition.
“I just wanted to do the best that I could possibly do,” she said. “I wasn’t worried about anybody else, just myself and doing what I could do for the team.”
Despite not being at the top of her game, Conley would like to defend her individual titles on Saturday.
“I’m just trying to keep everything healthy right now,” she said. “It’s not my biggest thing to win again, but it would be nice.
“I want to be more careful this year just to make sure I wouldn’t hurt myself because of the scholarship. But in no way is gymnastics less important than track. Next week, though, my focus will be on track.”
A Mead squad last qualified for the state meet in 2015, and Chadwick pointed out that no one on her current roster, Conley included, had previously competed as a team at state.
“We had a couple of falls on beam, but we did well,” Chadwick said.
She called out senior Maya Stein, who bounced back from a knee injury three weeks ago to compete Friday in all four events. She also praised Lexi Weller, a junior who had never attempted gymnastics until her freshman year, for posting an impressive 9.55 of floor.
“For only being in her third year of gymnastics, that’s pretty noteworthy,” Chadwick said.
In the 3A/2A individual finals earlier in the day, Brooklyn Tarr of Shadle Park tied for sixth on beam for the highest score posted by a Spokane-area gymnast. On Thursday night, Tarr placed 11th in all-around.
Other 4A local results: Anna Johnson, University (17th, bars); Pam Styborski, University (12th, beam), Sophia Shawen, Mead (13th, beam); Lexi Weller, Mead (T-6th, floor); Victoria Axtell, Central Valley (T-12th, vault).
Holy Names Academy of Seattle won its second straight 3A/2A team title Thursday with a score of 178.15, and Holy Names senior Lily Gunning won the all-around title (38.125). Sydney Griswold from Sammamish of Bellevue won all four 3A/2A individual event championships on Friday, the first four-event sweep by a gymnast at state since Katie Dinsmore of Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) did it in 2002.
4A State Gymnastics Team and All-Around Finals
Team scores – Camas 181.2; Woodinville 180.125; North Creek 173.75; Emerald Ridge 172.2; Mead 172.125; Kentlake 164.625; Auburn Mountainview 164.525; Kentridge 162.4.
All-around – Lexi McKnight, Kentridge, 38.05; Shea McGee, Camas, 37.9; Jessica Harpel, Ferris, 37.6; Ali Tate, Auburn, 37.55; Alyssa Shibata, Camas, 37.35; Zella Conley, Mead, 37.2.
Vault – Ali Tate, Auburn, and Lexi McKnight, Kentridge, 9.55; Jessica Harpel, Ferris, 9.475; Zella Conley, Mead, 9.45.
Bars – Alyssa Shibata, Camas, 9.725; Shea McGee, Camas, and Jordan Creel, North Creek, 9.6; Lexi McKnight, Kentridge, 9.55.
Beam – Jessica Harpel, Ferris, 9.525; Shea McGee, Camas, 9.475; Mac Ridgway, Union, 9.425; Maleia Gomes, Mount Rainier, and Lexi McKnight, Kentridge, 9.375.
Floor – Kylie Mosset, Woodinville, and Erin Clayton, North Creek, 9.625; Ali Tate, Auburn, 9.6; Lexi McKnight, Kentridge, and Lizzy McKnight, Kentridge, 9.575.