As Stafford gymnastics coach Shawn Smith stared at her Indians atop the medal platform following yesterday's Park View Invitational, she still had a hard time taking her eyes off the scorecard.
"I knew we were confident and I knew we were pretty good as a team," she said. "But there was no way I thought we would win this meet by as much as we did."
Stafford easily won the meet with a team score of 147.3. Potomac Falls placed a distant second with 139.025 points and Woodbridge (133.7) finished third.
"We just went out there and our whole team just nailed routines," Smith said. "It wasn't one person, and that's what makes this such a big win."
Because of the talent differential in the 12-team field, yesterday's invitational was split into two meets. The Red Division, which featured teams averaging 125 points and above for the season, was composed of Courtland, Loudoun Valley, Potomac Falls, Stafford and Woodbridge. The final seven teams averaging 124 points or less--Broad Run, Colonial Forge, Harrisonburg, Osbourn, Park View, Stonewall Jackson and Turner Ashby--composed the Blue Division.
"I think it's good when you break the teams up, but looking back at it, I would have liked to compete in the higher division," said Stonewall Jackson Coach Karen Lutman, whose Raiders won the Blue Division with 129.675 points, just edging out Broad Run (129.1) and host Park View (124.5).
However, the day belonged to Stafford, as the Indians posted the top team score in every event, and kept getting stronger as the meet progressed. The three Indians who competed in every event--Sarah Brown (37.4 points), Angel Dodson (36.9) and Aimee Little (36.85)--finished first, second and third, respectively, in the all-around competition. Potomac Falls's Lindsey Montana (36.8) and Elisa Padilla (36.6) placed fourth and fifth, respectively.
The Indians scored a 36 on the vault, led by Brown's meet-high 9.4. The team registered a 36.3 on the uneven bars, behind Dodson's meet-high 9.35 and Little and Jennifer Whited, who each scored a 9.0. The Indians also scored a 36.5 on the floor exercise, behind Little's meet-high 9.45. With the meet firmly locked up, the Indians went out in style with a 38.05 on the balance beam.
"What I was most proud of is that we kept getting better scores in each event," Smith said. "We always tried to improve."
Three years ago, Eugene Toms was a struggling student, hanging out with the wrong crowd and getting into trouble with the law. Then he joined the Suitland High wrestling team. Today, Toms is a model student and citizen. He also is one of the area's top grapplers.
Last night, Toms placed second in the 125-pound division at the 17-team Patriot Classic at Northern High. No. 2 Damascus won the team title for the second straight year, placing four wrestlers in the championship round and six in the consolation finals.
"Wrestling kind of saved me," said Toms, who went 21-5 and placed third at the 4A/3A tournament last season. ". . . Wrestling kept me off the streets and gave me something to do."
The best match of the night was the 145-pound final between Damascus senior T.J. Salb (12-1) and Northern sophomore Ryan Forman (14-1). Salb tied the match at 2 with a reversal early in the second period, but Forman took a 5-2 lead with an escape and reversal. Forman took a 6-5 lead early in the third period but Salb got two points with 15 seconds left and won, 7-6.
Toms decided not to wrestle his freshman season at Northern. He then transferred to Suitland, but did not join the wrestling team until the last week of the season. Despite his lack of mat time, Toms placed fifth at the 4A/3A South Region championships, just missing a trip to the state tournament. Still, he was not happy.
"I was used to placing first or second my whole life so when I placed fourth [at the Prince George's County championship], I almost quit," Toms said. "But I decided to stick with it and I kept working and working."
This season, Toms is 13-1 and ranked third in the area at 125 pounds. His goal is to become Suitland's first 4A/3A champion. He also wants to earn an athletic scholarship to college.
"I've known for a long time that I could be a good wrestler," Toms said. "My head just wasn't in it. Now, I take it one match at a time and focus on what I have to do."