Lambert’s Gym Horns missed a gymnastics state title by only a quarter of a point last year in their inaugural season. They didn’t hold any hard feelings against champion Tift County, but they weren’t about to fall short against their friendly rivals a second time.
Katie Stuart turned in a second-place overall individual performance and led the second-year Gym Horns to the state title with 109.575 points — .675 of a point ahead of runner-up Tift County — on Friday at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta.
"We wanted it," Stuart said. " ... Coming off [getting second place last year] and getting so close to that first place, we wanted it really bad. We worked that little bit extra bit harder and got it.
"[It wasn’t] revenge because it’s not like we don’t like [Tift]. We are very close to that team and with the girls, so it’s kind of more just like, ‘Well, you guys won [last year], so it’s kind of like our time to shine.’"
The two teams were so close that Lambert head coach Christine Naffky was uncertain of the final results until after the competition ended.
"We had heard we were up at the end of the third rotation, but we didn’t know we had won until they announced it," Naffky said. "We were shocked, and then we screamed.
"This team exceeded my expectations. Tift is a good team, but the girls were so driven. We knew our competition going in and knew we had a shot."
Tift County finished second with 108.9 points, followed by Carrollton (third place, 107.4), Buford (fourth, 106.725), Newnan (fifth, 106.025) and Lassiter (sixth, 105.725).
Only four athletes are allowed to participate in four separate events — uneven bars, floor exercise, balance beam and vault. The top three individual scores are then totaled to determine the team’s event score.
Stuart, a sophomore who is already committed to the University of Kentucky, took first place in the uneven bars, second in the floor exercise and third on the vault. She narrowly missed first in the overall individual performance by .35 of a point. Tift County’s Beth Roberts won first with a score of 38.15, while Stuart claimed second with 37.8.
Even after falling off the balance beam — Stuart’s first event — she bounced back. She boasted a season-high score of 9.85 on the uneven bars and was on a mission to atone for her mistake.
"I was surprised at how well I revived from it and made up for my score," Stuart said. "My next three events made up for it because I did good. [I was] more determined than anything."
Added Naffky: "She’s very energetic and a good performer. Her skills are beautiful and she puts on a great finished product. She’s just very good."
Senior Taylor Pastor placed sixth in the floor exercise with a score of 9.25, while freshmen Anna Claire Flack (8.6) and Elizabeth White (9.1) posted their best floor exercise scores of the season.
The Gym Horns will only lose two seniors to graduation, Taylor Pastor and Amanda Bonner, and have a strong chance to repeat as state champions next season.
"I hope we keep the ball rolling," Naffky said. "It’s a tough sport, especially with seniors leaving and new kids coming in."
South Forsyth freshman Madison Sims qualified as an individual for the state competition and was among the top-12 in each of her events.