In just its first season, the Lambert gymnastics team placed second at last week’s state meet at Westminster. And what is equal parts disappointing and encouraging is the fact that the Longhorns came tantalizingly close to winning the title.
Tift County won the team championship by just 3/10ths of a point — 112.125 to 111.825 — over Lambert in the judges’ scoring.
But Lambert community coach Michelle Drehoff said she and head coach Christine Naffky had already addressed the issue with the team prior to the competition, which was expected to come down to four teams — defending champion Tift, Lambert, Alpharetta and Newnan, the 2008 champion.
“We knew it was going to be tight,” said Drehoff, whose daughter, Paige, a senior, won the vault competition.
“Most of our girls compete at the club level and they know that high school judges are not quite as experienced as club judges. But, hey, that’s high school gymnastics. Calls can go one way or another in other sports, and you just have to deal with it and move on.”
Still, Drehoff said the joy of the entire season and the finals far exceeded any disappointment the team may have felt by not winning the championship. She thinks the camaraderie that comes with high school team competition played a huge role in that. In high school, four individuals compete for a team in four different events – vault, bars, balance beam and floor. The top three scores are combined to make up the team score for the event.
“The girls know that if they don’t do well, their teammate has a chance to pick them up,” Drehoff said. “The girls root for each other and it builds a lot of team chemistry.
“I believe that high school gymnastics is a chance for the girls to have fun and remember what made gymnastics fun to them in the first place,” Drehoff said.
“There is so much pressure on the girls as individuals at the club [gymnastics] level. At the high school level, they can just relax and go out and compete and have fun. Our girls did that and I couldn’t be more proud of them for that.”
Along with Paige Drehoff’s individual state title in the vault, the Longhorns got solid performances from junior Taylor Pastor in the vault, and freshmen Delaney Givens and Katie Stuart, who was sixth in the floor exercise.
Drehoff, who coached at Alpharetta last season, said she is excited about the future of the Lambert program.
“Both [Lambert and Alpharetta] programs are really solid,” Drehoff said. “We’ve got some really talented girls here, some very talented freshmen. Our program is really going to thrive. It’s very exciting.”