By Sarah Snare
LoCoSports Copy Editor
Sterling (December 15, 2016) – The 2016 VHSL 5A gymnastics state champion Freedom High School defended their title on December 13 with a conference win in a 6-team meet at Park View High School against John Champe, Rock Ridge, Woodgrove and Briar Woods.
Freedom started the competition off strong, with freshman Bre Roeder performing a solid 9.15 beam routine.
Roeder is just one of the nine new faces on the Freedom gymnastics team this year, seven of which are freshmen. Along with the difficulty of having such a young team, the Eagles are missing their star athlete, 2016 VHSL 5A individual all-around state champion junior Sydney Wrighte, who is out of competition due to injury.
Despite these obstacles, the Freedom gymnasts were determined to defend their state title. Moving to the floor exercise, the Eagles continued to soar, with Roeder, freshman Sydney Niemala and senior captain Cara Fragala contributing three more nines to the team score.
Freedom kept this fierce pace throughout the remainder of the competition, earning competitive scores on both vault and bars to come out with a team total of 135.275. The Eagles – who improved their score by over five points from last week’s meet – held a 1.875-point lead above second place Woodgrove High School.
“Our goals are to continue on and get everybody healthy, but also try to get everybody competing to see who is really the best fit on each event,” Freedom head coach Laura Wrighte said. “We hope to do well at conference and we hope to make it to state again.”
While the Eagles were able to claim the team trophy, the Woodgrove Wolverines held pride in presenting the top all-around: sophomore River Stone.
Stone is a first-year high school gymnast, but she is not new to the sport. She has been competing for Apex Gymnastics in Leesburg for 13 years, winning the 2016 Level 8 All-Around state title prior to moving to the gym’s Xcel Diamond team.
With first place finishes on vault, bars and beam, Stone’s 36.625 all-around score topped Roeder’s second place by six tenths of a point. Stone was happy with her performance and can’t wait to continue working towards success with her fellow Wolverines.
“I don’t want to go backward,” Stone said. “I just want to keep moving forward. I want to keep getting better. I want the whole team to keep getting better.”
Both Freedom and Woodgrove will continue to fight for the top spot next week at another 6-team meet at Freedom High School on December 22.