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Julia Konner leads Bethesda-Chevy Chase to Montgomery County gymnastics title

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All the other competitors had finished for the night when Julia Konner stepped up to begin her floor routine at Tuesday’s Montgomery County gymnastics championship meet. With the spotlight to herself, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase junior made the crowd buzz with a performance that earned a meet-best score of 9.35.

“I feel the pressure there because the scores are supposed to go up,” Konner said. “You don’t want to disappoint, but when you get through it, it just feels good.”

That meet-closing floor exercise capped a sparkling showing for Konner in her home gym. She won all four individual events, taking the all-around title with a score of 37.675.

Those marks helped the Barons capture their fifth team title in six seasons with a season-best 172.045, edging defending champ Walter Johnson and Whitman.

Konner missed last year’s meet because of club commitments after winning it as a freshman. The level-10 club gymnast spends most her time in the gym working on tricks that are considered too dangerous for high school competition. During the spring, she practices her scaled-down routines once a week with the Barons.

But Tuesday she showed no problems adapting, posting at least 9.35 in all four events with a high of 9.55 on the balance beam.

“I was really disappointed last year,” Konner said. “I was so happy I could be with the team this time and help them out.”

Whitman senior Samantha Buxbaum and Walter Johnson junior Grace Leslau tied for second all-around with 36.55. Buxbaum, who helped found her team last year, took the silver on the second tiebreaker.

As a team, Bethesda-Chevy Chase lost to Walter Johnson during the regular season, but the Barons took the season-ending meet thanks to an adjustment in approach.

Rather than loading her gymnasts’ routines with tougher skills, Coach Dana Creager put a premium on avoiding the falls that had plagued the team at times this season. Creager counted just one fall on Tuesday as the Barons beat the Wildcats by more than six points.

“We kind of said, ‘Let’s just clean everything up,’ ” Creager said. “We worked on making sure everything we were doing was pretty, and we could stay on the event.”

In recent years, the county’s top teams and gymnasts had advanced to a bi-county meet with the best from Anne Arundel County, but Anne Arundel dropped gymnastics last June, leaving Montgomery as the last county in the state to sponsor the sport.

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