No Washington-Lee gymnast finished higher than third in any event at Wednesday’s Virginia AAA Northern Region championships at Lake Braddock. The Generals’ highest all-around finisher, senior Mary Lynn Clark, placed sixth.
Yet after the meet, Washington-Lee Coach Joe D’Emidio was the one clutching the team championship trophy under his left arm.
“That tells you the depth and dedication of the kids working as a team to win this, not worrying about themselves getting a medal in each event,” D’Emidio said. “That makes a big difference.”
Last year Washington-Lee captured the school’s first region title in any sport since 1977 and finished second in the state AAA team meet, with a score of 146.2. The Generals topped that Wednesday with a 147.15, their highest ever at the event, and a comfortable margin ahead of second-place McLean (143).
W.T. Woodson senior Simone Freidman soared to the all-around championship with a score of 38.35, with Centreville’s Ciara Hoernke and Hayfield’s Molly Overstreet tying for second at 38.05.
Freidman, who is headed to Bowling Green on a scholarship next year, was taking part in a high school competition for the first time since her freshman year, when she won an all-around Patriot District title. Commitments to club gymnastics prevented Freidman from defending her place until this season, when her 38.1 all-around score at the district meet led all Northern Region gymnasts.
She carried that success into Wednesday, when she started with a 9.35 score on bars before rocketing into the lead on the strength of a 9.85 on beam, a routine she called “the best I’ve ever done.” It was the highest score of her career and the best all day in the event.
Freidman added a 9.55 in floor exercise, setting up an anxiety-filled turn on the vault.
“I was actually freaking out,” she said. “We were the last rotation, and I calculated everyone else’s scores and I realized there was a score I needed to have, and it made me so nervous. I didn’t make my vaults in warmups, so it was killing me the entire meet knowing it was going to come down to that.”
Although Freidman fell on her second vault attempt, the first was good enough for a 9.6 and the title.
“I’m so excited to move on to states,” she said. “I never even thought of winning districts and regionals.”
Washington-Lee sat in second place overall after opening with a 35.9 in the floor exercise, the only event the Generals did not win. Clark, who finished second in the all-around competition at both the regional and individual state meet last season, endured a miscue that led to an 8.775.
D’Emidio knew the Generals needed to step up on the vault, and once one of their gymnasts failed to record a score in the event, the pressure intensified on the rest of the team. Clark led the way with a 9.55, Kylie Auble added a 4.25 and Madeleine Sendek had a 9.4, helping produce a 37.8, the best vault mark in team history.
Clark placed eighth in the vault and also led the Generals by finishing fourth in the uneven bars (9.5) and the beam (9.65). She was unfazed by the early adversity.
“It actually kind of happens to me a lot, that I mess up in the first event,” said Clark, the defending All-Met Gymnast of the Year. “I just put that behind me. My team needed my scores on the next events. I told myself, ‘I’m not doing this for me, I’m doing it for the team, and they need my scores.’ So I just acted like it didn’t happen.”
Besides Washington-Lee, McLean also qualified for the state meet.
Freidman, Hoernke, Overstreet and Marshall’s Morgan Stahl — who won the vault and floor exercise — qualified as individuals.