High schools

Bartle helps lift Free State to Kansas gymnastics title

Updated: 2013-10-27T01:58:22Z

By CHARLES REDFIELD

Special to The Star

As the 41st Kansas State Gymnastics meet wound to a close Saturday at Olathe North, all eyes in the gymnasium turned toward Lawrence Free State junior Grace Bartle, a solitary figure awaiting her turn on the balance beam.

The other events were finished (and her teammate had fallen off the beam, causing her score to be lowered), leaving Bartle as the last gymnast to perform.

“It was nerve-wracking,” the junior said. “I knew I had to stay on the beam and not have any wobbles.”

And Bartle delivered. Her score of 9.175 won the event and clinched a state championship for Free State, which finished with a team score of 105.05.

“I had the best score I’ve ever had,” she said.

It was the capper of a memorable meet for Bartle, who started her Saturday with a gold medal in the floor exercise with score of 9.475.

“I went out and had fun and had my best score ever,” she said.

This year’s title was the second outright state championship for the Firebirds. They won the title in 2011 and tied Newton for the championship in 2009.

“We knew we could pull it out at state,” Firebirds coach Brooke Kissinger said. “We stayed together as a team.

“They did wonderful. This is the greatest feeling ever.”

Olathe Northwest sophomore Jessie Payne had the best performance of the meet.

She won the vault with a score of 9.7. That tied for the second-best score ever in the event. Derby’s Lindsay Davis had a 9.8 in 1999 and she had a 9.7 in 1998. Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Erica Mings had a 9.7 in 2004.

“That was my best vault ever,” Payne said. “I have worked so hard for this.”

And that wasn’t the only weekend accomplishment for the sophomore.

She won the uneven parallel bars with a score of 9.2. And she won the all-around title with a score of 36.975, just beating Bartle, who had a score of 36.625.

The Ravens finished second in the team standings with a score of 103.775, nosing out Sunflower League champion Shawnee Mission West by .425 points.

“That is our best finish ever at state,” Ravens coach Julie Bayha said. “These girls have worked so hard.”

SM West finished third. The Vikings were looking for their first state title since 1987.

Leading the way for the Vikings was senior Megan Vanderpool, who placed fourth in the all-around at 36.55.

Olathe East was fourth in the team standings at 103.3.

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