The Washington Post

Gymnastics: Monique Mendez leads Walter Johnson to Montgomery County title

Walter Johnson junior Monique Mendez’s performance on the beam stood out as one of the highlights at Tuesday’s Montgomery County gymnastics championship. Her season-high 9.25 score led the Wildcats to a winning 160.55 overall score at Gaithersburg.

“I added a back tuck to my beam routine two weeks ago after going to a club meet for fun,” Mendez said. Her coach, Ursula Bright, added that she doesn’t know many people who can perfect a back tuck in such a short period of time.

Mendez tried the back tuck in a meet against Sherwood on April 25. She scored an 8.50, but she fell.

“We decided that I should try it again this time because it gets you a lot of points from the judges, so I did it and I’m really excited that I landed it,” Mendez said, laughing.

Cassidy Deerin (9.15) and Ellie Wiersma (8.80) from Sherwood followed in the beam competition.

Mendez’s leadership was felt by her teammates more than usual, as one of Walter Johnson’s best gymnasts, Hope Flieger, had to leave just before the meet started because of a back injury. The team acknowledged it was disappointing at first, but the encouragement from Bright and Mendez kept the team’s spirit’s up.

“I was very upset at first,” Mendez said. “But we weren’t even thinking about winning. We just made sure to try 10 times harder. I didn’t expect to win, but it feels great.”

Division champion Sherwood was also down two gymnasts, freshman Toni Williams and senior Robin Benard. While the two gymnasts were in Mississippi competing in a national tournament, Deerin and Wiersma took responsibility for leading the Warriors.

“We might not have finished first, but this is the first season we’ve ever been division champions,” Wiersma, a senior, said. “I think this is one of my best meets for sure, even though the scores didn’t match up. We were pushed really hard by our coaches so we definitely did our best.” The Warriors scored 151.45 overall.

Even though she didn’t place in the top six in the floor event, Wiersma felt that was her best event, adding in some unique moves where she began with a cartwheel going into multiple backhand springs and a back tuck. The performance, however, did help to boost her all-around score, where she placed fourth with a score of 33.75, behind Mendez’s 34.75, Springbrook’s Annie Burton’s 35.2 and Deerin’s top all-around score of 35.7.

Alex Kim from Whitman (9.10) and Amanda Vega from Springbrook (8.90) were the top finishers in the floor event.

Deerin won the vault event with an 8.70, following by Amanda Vega’s 8.70 and Whitman’s Annie Burton scoring an 8.525. Ties were broken using all-around scores.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase came into the meet having won the overall team title the past two years, but with new Coach Dotti Garlington, the Barons finished fifth, scoring 132.5 as a team just behind Blair, which finished with a score of 137.3. Following the Barons were Springbrook (127.525), Blake (107.45) and host Gaithersburg (79.7).



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