Olathe East High School coach Julie Bayha — all season — was preparing her gymnastics team for a close finish at the state meet.
It’s a good thing she did.
Although the Hawks missed first place by .475 points, Olathe East junior Darby Gertsema was able to edge defending champion Jessie Payne of Olathe Northwest to take the all-around title by .025 points. Gertsema was also the individual champion in the vault.
“She had a fantastic meet and definitely put an exclamation point on the end of her season,” Bayha said. “She started out great on bars and hit a really beautiful routine, and then went to beam and didn’t have any mistakes on beam. It was the best beam routine she has had all year. Same thing on floor (exercise) and then she went to vault.”
In the vault, she was the only competitor to attempt a Yurchenko layout, which begins with a 10.0 start value. After 10 strides, a roundoff into a springboard and a back handspring onto the vaulting table, Gertsema finished with a 9.65, which was tied for the third-best score in state meet history.
“She soared over everyone’s heads,” Bayha said. “It was really well executed.”
Gertsema finished third on the beam and sophomore teammate Samantha Bond added a second-place finish in the floor exercise, but the Hawks suffered their first loss of the season. Lawrence Free State claimed the team title.
“It stings a little,” Bayha said. “We just have to remind the girls that your whole season is not defined by one meet. We still had a really outstanding season and had a lot of fun.”
Led by Payne, Olathe Northwest finished fourth in the team standings behind Newton, which was the only non-Sunflower League team in the competition. Shawnee Mission West, SM Northwest, SM North and SM East rounded out the team standings.
SM West’s Caroline Miller took home the individual state title in the uneven bars with a score of 9.15