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March 19, 2014

Grosse Pointe gymnastics takes fourth at states

Freshman leads GP United to best-ever finish

By Thomas Franz
C & G Sports Writer

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Grosse Pointe gymnastics takes fourth at states
Pictured is the Grosse Pointe United team that participated in the state finals. From left is freshman Chandler McClarty, junior Gyanei’ Johnson, junior Maria Nguyen, sophomore Jen Gmeiner, senior Amy Olson, senior captain Caitlin Gaitley, sophomore Michelle Ellis and freshman Isabelle Nguyen.

PLYMOUTH — Grosse Pointe United took fourth place at the MHSAA state championships held at Plymouth High School on March 7.

United finished the team competition with 142.400 points. The fourth-place finish by United was its best in team history at the state competition.

Members of the team participating at states were freshman Chandler McClarty, junior Gyanei’ Johnson, junior Maria Nguyen, sophomore Jen Gmeiner, senior Amy Olson, senior captain Caitlin Gaitley, sophomore Michelle Ellis and freshman Isabelle Nguyen.

The team had its best performance in the bars competition, placing tops in the state with 35.425 points. United finished fourth in vault and beam, and the team took sixth in the floor exercise.

United coach Courtney Schafer said her team exceeded expectations in the team competition.

“I think going into the meet, we were hoping for a top-five finish, so we were really thrilled to get fourth. It was a really great meet for everyone on the team. We, basically, hit the whole meet, which was really exciting to do that at the team state finals,” Schafer said.

An improved performance on the beam helped propel United into the top five.

“We finished on beam, which we didn’t have such a great rotation on at the regional meet, and we had a great finish there. We didn’t count a single fall this time around,” Schafer said.

Schafer said that senior Amy Olsen’s performance on the beam was especially important in giving the rest of her team the confidence it needed to finish the meet strong.

“Amy Olsen led us off on beam with a really good routine with no falls, and that kind of set the pace and tone for that last rotation. For her to get up there and be really calm and hit her routine, that made everyone really calm to follow after her and have a great routine,” Schafer said.

Also leading United throughout the meet was freshman Isabelle Nguyen. Schafer said that Nguyen finished with the second or third highest individual all-around score in the team competition.

“It (Nguyen’s score) didn’t count for anything individually, but for her to go in and, on behalf of the team, put up such huge numbers was really important,” Schafer said. “She’s been our scoring leader all year, and she’s just a kid who doesn’t act like a freshman. You can count on her whenever she’s going up in the lineup.”

In the individual state championship on March 8, Nguyen placed fifth overall by scoring 37.125 points. Her sister, Maria, a junior, finished 14th with 35.725 points.

“For her to finish fifth even with the fall was really impressive. I think given that she’s only a freshman, I think that she really made a name for herself at her first state meet, and I would expect that she’s going to have a great next couple of years at the state level,” Schafer said of Isabelle Nguyen’s individual performance.

In addition to a strong close on the beam, United was able to break away from the middle of the pack by winning the bars competition. Sophomore Jen Gmeiner, who won the Division 2 bars competition in the individual meet, helped lead United to the team bars title.

“Bars have been a strength, and it’s one of the hardest events, so if you do well there, you can really distance yourself that way. Jen (Gmeiner), Maria (Nguyen) and Amy (Olsen) have some of the best routines in the state,” Schafer said.

United had three gymnasts close the state competition with All-State honors. The Nguyen sisters and Gmeiner made up the trio of All-Staters, and that was the highest number of All-State honorees United has ever had at the state finals.

Prior to this year, United’s top state finish was 11th place in 2011 and 2012. Schafer said that a combination of talented youth and experience helped propel this year’s team even higher.

“Everyone really hit their meet, so it was a total team effort because, from top to bottom, we didn’t count any falls or mistakes in the whole meet, so everyone who was in the lineup really did their job,” Schafer said. “I think that we had several girls who joined our team that had really good competitive experience coming into it, and so that, combined with our returning varsity gymnasts, ended up being a great combination together.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Thomas Franz at tfranz@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1040.