By Patricia Duffy
For the Forsyth County News
In a dimly lit Ola High School gymnasium, gymnasts, coaches, and parents alike sat waiting with racing hearts, sweaty palms, and, yes, growling stomachs.
This was the scene Friday evening in McDonough, Georgia, as the 2019 GHSA State Gymnastics Championship drew to a close–only medals and trophies left to be awarded.
Less than an hour earlier, gymnasts propelled themselves through the air, defying gravity and doing everything possible to make it look perfect. Meanwhile, their parents and teammates looked on, screaming at the top of their lungs, rooting for that perfect score – or at the very least, the one that would put their team on top.
With high school gymnastics being scored out of a 10, ties are almost inevitable, but no one could have imagined after more than three hours of competition, that two Forsyth County teams would be the subject of a tie for the 6A-7A state championship–and the reason a gym full of people sat nervously waiting for more than 30 minutes.
“I wish I could say that there was something going through my mind right now, but everything is such a blur,” West head coach Ashley Owen said. “We knew going into this that this is some of the greatest talent we have seen in high school gymnastics in any of the years I’ve been coaching.”
Owen’s talented Wolverines were on the winning side of that tie Friday night, as West took home its third straight state championship via tiebreaker against the Lambert Longhorns, the 2019 runners-up.
“To know the strong competition we had going in, and then knowing that we tied with a county school there at the end and having no idea what it was going to come down to... it’s just overwhelming excitement,” Owen said after a whirlwind of celebrations with her team. “It made everything so much sweeter to know that we had to fight tooth and nail for it this.”
After Lambert finished third at the county meet in March with a 106.75, the Longhorns rebounded with a huge 111.725–a 4.975 increase in just over a month’s time. But when it came down to the chief judge scores, the Wolverines escaped victorious once again.
Both teams’ 111.725 were vast improvements on their county meet scores, despite the fact that the state meet–with the new addition of a second A-5A division–was twice as long. Trying to stay warm and energized for that amount of time would seem like a feat in itself, but Owen insists it didn’t feel extended.
“There was always something going on, and I love that we got to see the two different divisions compete,” Owen said. “Between all the fruit snacks and their goodie bags and just the energy that we had going in, they just wanted it.”
Individually, Lambert (6A-7A) and Denmark (A-5A) took home the top prize of the night – the individual all-around title – in their respective divisions.
Longhorns senior Brianna Greenlow secured her all-around title, along with the balance beam (9.6) and floor exercise (9.9) titles. The future William and Mary gymnast enjoyed a nearly perfect outing highlighted by sky-high tumbling and rock-solid consistency, despite some previous struggles on the 4-inch wide apparatus.
“Beam is normally a very strong event for me, but this season it’s been a little rocky,” Greenlow said. “So to finish out on that event and hit it really well was a special moment for me, especially [my] last year.”
Denmark junior Sarah Wilson hauled home the most hardware on the night, winning vault (9.8), uneven bars (10.0), floor (9.7), and the all-around (38.8). Indeed, Wilson scored her second perfect 10 of the season on uneven bars. Her routine–highlighted by stunning lines, a Shaposh release (performed by many current Olympic gymnasts), and a powerful double layout dismount–was one of the most difficult exercises performed at the competition.
“It’s just really exciting because last year I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, so this year was sort of redemption,” Wilson said. “So, I’m just really happy I was able to pull it out.”
Wilson and the rest of the first-year Denmark team were also named the inaugural A-5A State Runner-Up, finishing second only to gymnastics powerhouse North Oconee. After an overwhelmingly successful first season, the Danes will be ones to watch in the coming years as they look to dethrone the Titans.
“I’d really love to see our team win state,” Wilson said. “That’s a big goal for me, and I think we can do it. A lot of it’s cleaning up, but I think we have the skills – it’s just making sure we don’t lose silly points.”
Georgia High School State Gymnastics Championship Results:
1T. Sarah Wilson, Denmark, 9.800
1. Sarah Wilson, Denmark, 10.000
4. Sarah Wilson, Denmark, 9.300
1. Sarah Wilson, Denmark, 9.700
4. Chase Brock, Denmark, 9.550
1. Sarah Wilson, Denmark, 38.800
4. Chase Brock, Denmark, 37.300
1. North Oconee, 113.800
2. Denmark, 108.550
3. Buford, 108.050
4. Westminster, 99.625
2. Brianna Greenlow, Lambert, 9.750
3. Olivia Blakely, West Forsyth, 9.700
1. Ella Castellanos, West Forsyth, 9.600
1. Brianna Greenlow, Lambert, 9.600
2. Ella Castellanos, West Forsyth, 9.300
3. Hallie Stocker, West Forsyth, 9.200
1. Brianna Greenlow, Lambert, 9.900
3. Hallie Stocker, West Forsyth, 9.300
4. Ella Castellanos, West Forsyth, 9.225
1. Brianna Greenlow, Lambert,
2. Ella Castellanos, West Forsyth,
3. Olivia Blakely, West Forsyth,
1. West Forsyth, 111.725
2. Lambert, 111.725
3. Cambridge, 107.975
4. Etowah, 107.375