Gar-Field senior Megan Sullivan and junior Tracy Cloninger put together brilliant back-to-back performances on the balance beam at yesterday's combined Cardinal/Cedar Run gymnastics championships at Stonewall Jackson, just one reason the Indians now can call themselves two-time defending team champs in the Cardinal District.
Sullivan executed a somersault into a sit-down position called a front toss, then completed her routine with a stunning back handspring, back layout dismount that earned her cheers from the crowd and a 9.725. Cloninger followed with wolf jumps, a difficult stationary hold called a scale, and a pretty back handspring, back tuck dismount for a 9.625.
The routines earned Sullivan the first-place medal on beam and Cloninger the medal for second.
"I never stuck the front toss before in a meet," said Sullivan, who finished second in the all-around competition (36.475) to Forest Park junior Jessica Kuschel (36.975). "When I hit that I couldn't stop smiling. From there I said, 'Megan, go strong and give it all you've got.' That's what I did and it worked."
Cloninger said: "Watching Megan [on beam] I knew it would be a tough act to follow. I just thought, go up and relax. That's what made the difference. I just relaxed the whole time."
Gar-Field's team total of 36.85 on beam -- the Indians also got a 9.3 from Ashley Lienau and 8.2 from Megan's sister Kelly -- was the highest team score on any one event among Cardinal teams, and it helped the Indians edge Forest Park in the team totals by less than two points, 138.35-136.825.
Cloninger suffered a scary fall on uneven bars in the meet's final rotation, slipping off the bars as she performed her giant series. The fall kept her from medaling in the all-around, in which she finished with a 34.5.
"I never peeled off my giants before," Cloninger said. "I didn't have enough chalk on."
At the awards ceremony, Sullivan and Cloninger hugged as Cloninger's face still showed signs of earlier tears.
"I've known Tracy forever, since we were 7 years old. This year and last year we've gotten a lot closer," Sullivan said. "I was scared [when she fell]. I didn't worry about the team score. I was worried, 'Is she all right?' "
Another back-to-back duo that wowed the audience was Stonewall Jackson freshman Erin Stack and senior Laura Hancock on floor exercise. Stack put a full twist onto the end of her first tumbling run and finished with 9.55. Hancock then followed with a full twist on her tumbling run and added an aerial in the middle of the routine for a 9.55. The teammates tied for first in the event.
"Before we went on floor we were all, like, 'Nine-point-fives!' And then me and Laura went out and did it," Stack said.