McLean sophomore Natalie Thomas executed a solid routine on the balance beam in her team’s final event on Friday to help propel the Highlanders to a second-place finish at the Virginia 6A team state gymnastics championship meet at Salem High.
Thomas scored a 9.55, aided by a front aerial — a complete forward revolution of the body without touching the floor.
“I made sure that I worked really hard and stuck a lot of my element,” she said in a phone interview. “I stuck my front aerial, which I’ve been trying to work on all year.”
Despite Thomas’s prowess, Cox held on to narrowly win the 6A title with a score of 144.95 to McLean’s 143.725.
Washington-Lee, which topped McLean in Tuesday’s 6A North region meet, placed third with a season-high 143.125.
Great Bridge captured the 5A title with a score of 146.86. Freedom-South Riding (142.775) finished third in 5A.
While the Highlanders were confident in their abilities to excel on the state’s biggest stage, they still had their second-place finish at the region meet fresh on their minds.
Junior Lizzy Brown-Kaiser tidied up her routine on the uneven bars after performing what she thought was below-par Tuesday afternoon.
“It was a lot of pressure going head-to-head with Washington-Lee,” Brown-Kaiser said, “and we still were pumped up about it today. But we made sure that we came out strong and that I fought for all of my landings.”
Brown-Kaiser’s resolve showed as she scored a season-high 9.05 on the uneven bars and backed that up with a 9.55 on vault, tying her season-high.
Thomas, whose vault did not count during regionals, aimed to tighten up her form for the state meet.
“I went to club practice Wednesday to refine my skills, make sure that I hit my feet first so that there could be no mistake about it,” Thomas said.
Using the same vault move she used all season, a front tuck, she scored a 9.10.
“We had such a strong team spirit that kept everyone going and that was huge, especially toward the end.” McLean Coach Courtney Lesson said.
Going forward, the Highlanders are excited to see what their team is capable of next season, and how they will do individually.
“I’m pretty pumped after we finished this season the best we ever have done,” Brown-Kaiser said. “I’m a big motivator of this team, and I’m sure that being a senior is going to come into play next year.”
Thomas will also participate in uneven bars and floor events during Saturday’s 6A individual competition.