McDONOUGH — The West Forsyth gymnastics team sat in a circle on a large mat in Ola High School's gym, and in the short time after North Oconee was announced as the state runner-up, the Wolverines giggled and chattered quietly. Upon the next announcement, they burst to their feet in celebration.
West couldn't be positive of what was coming – "Not 100 percent sure," junior Sienna Schreiber said — but plenty of indicators pointed towards the cause for celebration: The Wolverines won their second straight state championship on Friday, topping North Oconee by almost four points, 113.400 to 109.550.
The meet was relatively short on drama and anxiety. West didn't have any major falls or huge slip-ups, and the lowest score the Wolverines counted was 9.100.
But that didn't reflect the turns the season as a whole took. A scheduling conflict between the state preliminary meet and the USAG Level 9/10 regionals in Florida looked to pose a major threat to the Wolverines' chances of repeating, as Schreiber and Ella Castellanos, two of their top gymnasts, would be at the latter meet. The conflict even caused Schreiber, a Missouri commit, to question whether she would compete in the high school season at all.
Wolverines head coach Ashley Owen reeled Schreiber back in, though, emphasizing the chance to letter for four years and still contribute however she could. And a late-season GHSA rule change, of which Owen was a major proponent, allowed West to put Schreiber and Castellanos in the finals even if they missed prelims, which cleared the path for a repeat.
"It's really to feel like a lot of the things that we fought through and fought for this year were worth it," Owen said. "Not just for us, but for several other teams that got to compete today. That was really exciting and empowering and just humbling."
The Wolverines finished third in the prelims, 1.525 points behind North Oconee. The additional help in the finals made up that margin, and much more.
"It's just crazy," Owen said. "I don't know how to explain it. That is a really big difference in the gymnastics world."
Schreiber competed in every event for West, compiling an all-around total of 37.975, and her 9.900 led the Wolverines on vault. West showed considerable depth, though, with Castellanos leading the team on bars with a 9.600 and Aundria Crittenden recording a 9.900 on the floor routine.
"Throughout the meet, we got progressively more confident, and we knew we could do it even more," Schreiber said.
The win brought feelings of release for the Wolverines. There was the pressure of defending a state title, particularly given how much West brought back from 2017, the uncertainty along the way of whether the team would have its best chance of doing that and the ever-present uncertainty of how the routines would actually go.
The significance of the repeat, and the dominance with which they did it, gave West a completely new feeling.
"This one's definitely, like, 10 times better than last year," Schreiber said. "Even though last year was insane."
Lambert’s Brianna Greenlow, who qualified individually for the all-around, finished second in that event with a score of 38.525, behind Savannah Schoenberr of North Oconee. Greenlow competed in the USAG Level 9/10 regionals in Florida the day before the state prelims, but she and her family made a late-night trip back to get back in time.