The uneven bars are perhaps the most difficult event in gymnastics. They require such strength that many of the most talented gymnasts who dazzle the judges on floor, vault and balance beam cannot perform the moves necessary to earn a high score on the bars.
Stafford's gymnasts, however, mastered the uneven bars at yesterday's Winterfest Invitational at Colonial Forge, putting together sparkling routines that enabled the Indians to overtake Osbourn Park in the final rotation and capture the team championship.
The Indians' top four gymnasts -- freshmen Angie Clements and Allison Brooks, junior Colleen Schwartz and senior Jennifer Little -- did not perform the fanciest dismounts, but their moves on the bars were so technically sound -- what the coaches refer to as clean -- that judges rewarded them accordingly.
Clements began the set with a 9.4, Schwartz followed with a 9.425, Little scored 9.475 and Brooks completed the rotation with a 9.575. All four were graceful in their acrobatics from high bar to low bar and each performed difficult giants (big swings) on the high bar toward the end of their routines. The dismounts were standard layout flyaways, but landed to perfection.
"Going into [bars] we were a point behind [Osbourn Park], and I told them that," Stafford Coach Shawn Smith said. "The girls had to step it up. All I said to them was, 'You've got to be clean,' and they were. It was by far the cleanest I've ever seen them do bars."
Stafford finished with a team score of 110, just ahead of Osbourn Park (108.95) and Stonewall Jackson (107.875). The teams likely will square off again at the Northwestern Region meet in two weeks.
"We have everybody [in our lineup] now," Schwartz said. "This was the meet to help boost our confidence for districts, and especially regionals. We knew Osbourn Park was coming here, and we knew there were a lot of good teams, a lot of hard competition."
Osbourn Park senior Kelly Stevison, who missed this invitational last year, continued her dominant season by winning the all-around title with 37.85. Little (36.75), Clements (36.25), Schwartz (36.20) and Brooks (36.15) finished second through fifth, respectively.
"I was really happy with floor. I never scored that high before," Stevison said of her first-place 9.55, in which she performed a wolf jump with a 11/2 twist. "It was a fun, fun meet and a really good day. There's tons of talent here so to be able to be competitive with these girls is awesome."
Stevison stood up a difficult Tsukohara vault with a half twist in the air (a Phelps) to win the event with 9.75. She also won uneven bars with 9.6. Stonewall Jackson's impressive freshman Isabelle Schumaker stuck her front-tuck dismount on balance beam and won the event with 9.4
Park View continued its improved season by winning the six-team lower division title with 94.5 points, seven points ahead of North Stafford (87.075). Chancellor's Mandy Schultz won the lower division all-around with 34.075.