WHITE LAKE — Grand Ledge senior Alaina Yaney came agonizingly close to winning an MHSAA Finals individual title last year.
And if you think that wasn’t on her mind for a full year, think again.
Yaney said she had notes written throughout her room in a quest to be better than a half-tenth of a point – the margin between her and 2022 first-place finisher Morgan Ruffing of Livonia Red.
“It was on my mind every single day at practice, and it motivated me to work harder,” Yaney said. “It was just one little toe point, and I knew that I could do it and I was very close. I had many things in my room reminding me to work harder.”
Instead of notes, Yaney will now have a Finals championship medal to display.
Yaney earned her redemption after a year’s wait, this time walking out of Lakeland High School as the Division 1 individual champion Saturday.
Yaney finished with an all-around score of 38.075, ahead of Ruffing and Emma Stewart of Salem, who tied for second with identical scores of 37.925.
Lacey Scheid of Friday’s team champion Rockford was fourth at 37.450, while Howell’s Maria Petru rounded out the top five at 37.375.
For Yaney, her day broke down like this:
Floor exercise. Yaney opened up in this event, and took second with a score of 9.575. “My mindset was to just go in calm, dominate and do what I knew I could do,” Yaney said. Ruffing won with a score of 9.800.
Up next for Yaney was this event, where she finished first with a score of 9.700. Stewart was second with a 9.575. “That is best my event,” Yaney said. “I just knew if I did what I know how to do, I would be fine.”
Bars. In her third event, Yaney finished third with a score of 9.325. Stewart was first with a 9.500, while Ruffing was second with a 9.425. “I was nervous because I had to make my new skill in order to get the score I needed,” Yaney said.
Beam. When Yaney got to her final event, she knew good scores in her previous three put her on the cusp of the title. “I just had to stay calm and focus and be confident that I could do it,” Yaney said. “I knew I was having good scores throughout the day, so it helped me stay calm.” Yaney delivered with a first-place finish, earning a score of 9.475. Stewart was second with a 9.400, and Scheid was third with a 9.350.
Vault.Yaney wasn’t the only Grand Ledge gymnast to leave with an individual title and redemption.
Teammate Lydia Beaton won the Division 2 competition with an all-around score of 36.650, finishing ahead of Coldwater’s Charlotte Calhoun, who had a 36.275.
Grace Spencer of Farmington United was third with a 35.825.
As was the case with Yaney in Division 1, Beaton was the runner-up last year in Division 2.
“I felt really confident,” Beaton said. “I woke up in the hotel room and I was like, ‘I’m going to win. I’m going to come in strong.’ I believed in myself.”
Beaton finished first in the vault (9.450) and the beam (9.575).
Yaney and Beaton’s titles helped Grand Ledge make up for what was a lower finish than usual at Friday’s team event, where the Comets finished in eighth place.
“I just knew they had a chance,” Grand Ledge head coach Duane Haring said. “All we talked about all day was to focus. If you focus, you could be there at the end. And they were there at the end. I’m so proud of them.”
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Ledge's Alaina Yaney competes on the uneven parallel bars; she finished third on that apparatus. (Middle) The top Division 1 individual finishers are recognized Saturday, including champion Alaina Yaney, far left, from Grand Ledge. (Below) Lydia Beaton competes on vault for the Comets, on the way to finishing first. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)