Stone Bridge freshman Allison Burkett and Loudoun Valley junior Alicia Essex left Salem High School in Virginia Beach on Saturday pleased with their performances at the Virginia High School League individual championships.
In her first appearance at the state meet, Burkett was the only local gymnast to earn a medal, finishing eighth in the vault (9.4). She also produced the best showing among Loudoun County competitors in the all-around -- ninth with 37.025. Burkett scored 9.45 on the floor exercise, 9.225 on the balance beam and 8.95 on the uneven bars.
Burkett's pike Tsukahara vault was her highlight for the afternoon and helped to boost her standing in the all-around.
"I wanted to do the pike" instead of the usual tuck "because I wanted a higher start value and a chance for my all-around to be that much higher," Burkett said. "I think I did pretty well. I think I got most of my best scores here."
Essex was 10th in the all-around with a personal-best 36.975. She also landed her Tsukahara for a 9.3, tying for ninth on the vault, and scored an impressive 9.475 (15th) on the floor exercise.
"It's a lot of competition, a lot of great competition and just to beat my own record [in the all-around] was probably the best thing I could do here at states," Essex said. "You're supposed to hit your peak" at states, "and I did."
Loudoun Valley sophomore Shannon Cain, Dulles District champion in the all-around, was not nearly as satisfied. She sat on the gymnasium bleachers after the meet with a bag of ice on her elbow and a somewhat downtrodden expression on her face.
Cain had high hopes entering her second consecutive state meet. Last season, she scored 35.70 for the four events to finish 17th. She had improved greatly this season, had posted all-around scores higher than 37 and clearly had hopes for a loftier finish.
For the second consecutive year, Cain finished 17th, this time with a four-event score of 36.30. She wanted more.
"I am not happy at all with how I did today," she said, not long after having her right elbow examined by a trainer after vault competition. "This is not a good meet at all. I am so disappointed. My goal was to come in today and make every routine on every event, and it just did not turn out the way I wanted it to."
She scored 8.8 on beam; 9.0 on bars; 9.2 on vault for her 10.0-value front handspring, front tuck; and 9.3 on floor.
The injury did not occur until the meet's final rotation, although her elbow has not been 100 percent in recent weeks. Cain said nerves also played a part in her performance.
"I just get so nervous at meets, especially since it was states," she said. "I was, like, 'I have to do well. So many people are counting on me.' "
Loudoun Valley senior Krystle Hollingsworth also competed in the all-around, finishing 18th with 35.75 points, including a 12th-place finish on beam (9.45).