MCDONOUGH – She was next to the floor routine mat, clapping and high-stepping and holding her hand to her mouth. Then she was tucked into a space next to the bleachers, hugging everyone around her and wiping away tears.
West Forsyth gymnastics head coach Ashley Owen doesn’t much try to hide her emotions, and on Friday they came stronger than ever, for this reason: the Wolverines won the state gymnastics championship, the first team title in any sport in the school’s 10-year history.
“These girls have worked so incredibly hard,” Owen said. “Their dedication to their sport, pushing through injuries – they’re an inspiration. These girls are an inspiration, and I just could not be more proud of them if my life depended on it.”
West did not necessarily come into the meet as the favorite. The Wolverines had to contend with county rival Lambert, who had beat them at the county championship meet and at the state preliminary meet, and Buford, winner of the last three state titles.
But they knew they had room to get better and that their best performance had likely not come. The preliminary meet was the first in which West had all of its top gymnasts together, and the Wolverines had to deal with a number of missteps, including Missouri commit Sienna Schreiber failing to crack 9 on the floor routine.
Coming into Friday’s meet, Schreiber said, the Wolverines were more confident and energized. They wanted not just to perform their best but also to beat the other teams, and the athletes looked at the opposing scores as they came in.
There were few letdowns. Along with the highest team score, West had the highest team total in each individual event. The duo of Schreiber and Aundria Crittenden pushed the Wolverines along: On the vault, Crittenden scored a 9.9 and Schreiber followed with a 9.767, and on the floor, Crittenden followed Schreiber’s perfect 10 with a 9.9.
All the while, Owen kept her heart rate on pace with the gymnasts’.
“It actually pumped us up more,” Crittenden said. “Because she was getting so excited, so that helped us (think), ‘Yeah, we can actually do this. We can win.’”
It was at that spot by the bleachers that she first heard of the team’s score on Friday. Owen wouldn’t find out where the Wolverines stood until the standings were officially announced, but she knew that 114.167 was almost unprecedented.
When the trophy was in hand and the celebration was fully underway, the emotions all came out. Owen raised her arms to the ceiling in joy as she reflected on the achievement of helping West to its first state title.
“Absolutely amazing!” she said, her voice now at a yell. “We did it!”
She looked back on her time with the school, back since it opened in 2007. She was first an athletic trainer and then started the Wolverines’ gymnastics program in 2010 with just two athletes.
“To see where we came from…” she said, trailing off.
That’s when the tears came, again.
1. West Forsyth, 114.167
2. Buford, 113.043
3. Lambert, 110.930
4. Northview, 105.826
5. Forsyth Central, 104.013
6. Centennial, 102.353
Vault: Aundria Crittenden, West Forsyth, 9.9
Uneven bars: Cyrena Whalen, Buford, 9.9
Beam: Lyndzi Jones, Buford, 9.7
Floor routine: Aundria Crittenden, West Forsyth, 9.9
All-around: Sienna Schreiber, West Forsyth, 39.194