After more than four hours and nine rotations, the 2014 Kansas State Gymnastics Championship meet at Shawnee Mission West High School was waiting on the final vault of Olathe East junior Darby Gertsema.
Gertsema had good reason to be taking her time. She was attempting a Yurchenko layout: 10 strides before performing a roundoff into the springboard and doing a back handspring onto the vaulting table.
If it sounds difficult, that’s because it is.
That didn’t keep Gertsema from nailing it, without so much as a bobble on the landing.
It earned Gertsema the state title in vault with a score of 9.65 — tied for the third-best score in state meet history. It also pushed Gertsema to the all-around title with a score of 36.775, .025 points ahead of the defending all around state champion, Olathe Northwest junior Jessie Payne.
“I was pretty off on my warmup, so I was kinda nervous,” Gertsema said. “The first one I knew it wasn’t going to happen. You can kind of tell when you’re coming off (the vault table). It was kind of slow. So I knew I had to pick it up and do it for the team.”
Gertsema had a much better feeling the second time she went vaulting head over heels.
“It was really nice. It all paid off. That kind of made it all worth it,” Gertsema said.
The Hawks finished second in the team standings, .475 points behind Lawrence Free State, which won its second consecutive state title.
“We were actually undefeated the entire season, so it was kind of disappointing (not to win the team title), but we gave it our all,” Gertsema said. “There’s not much we can do about it.”
Gertsema finished third in the balance beam, and sophomore Samantha Bond contributed with a second-place finish on the floor exercise. Gertsema’s vault, though, was the lasting moment.
“Wasn’t it beautiful,” Olathe East coach Julie Bayha said. “She knows how to put an exclamation point on the end of her season. She came into high school with a great vault and it just improved over time. It was only one of two vaults that started from a 10.0 (degree of difficulty). That should tell you how difficult it is.”
Shawnee Mission West added a state champion to the list in the first state finals meet it play host to since 1985. Senior Caroline Miller ended her high school career in style, winning the uneven parallel bars with a score of 9.150.
“That’s the best score I’ve gotten all season. I actually added a new skill, which helped a lot, and I just went out there and did my best,” Miller said.
Miller added a “bail,” where she transitioned from the high bar to the low bar while changing directions.
“We got to practice in here yesterday and get used to the atmosphere and it was really beneficial to us to practice in our home school,” she said. “I really didn’t know (that it was good enough for a title), but I had an idea.”
That idea wasn’t confirmed until Miller’s name was called during the awards ceremony.
“I think in the last couple of weeks she’s been gung-ho about going for it,” Shawnee Mission West coach Ann Heinlein said. “She knew she needed to add another skill to help us more, and that’s exactly what it did. I didn’t think I had seen anything much over a nine, but I wasn’t sure. I was stunned when she went up there.”
▪ Payne led Olathe Northwest by finishing second in uneven parallel bars, tied for third in vault, fourth in balance beam and third in floor exercise.
▪ Newton’s Kailey Naysmith won the balance beam with a score of 9.625. She also finished third in the all-around.