WHITE LAKE – Rockford gymnastics coach Michelle Ankney said a little regrouping was in order, even for her experienced and championship-tested squad.
In its third rotation at the MHSAA Team Gymnastics Final on Friday, the Rams were uncharacteristically off on the bars and ended up finishing with the sixth-best score in that event.
At that point, Ankney tried to employ a pet-themed motivational tactic to get her team’s spirits up again.
“We did have to take a break,” she said. “We’ve been talking about if you are a goldfish, you only have an 8-second memory. We had to get out our anger and pretend to be a goldfish and head to beam. We did a little pep talk, we did a little cheering and we stepped up the best we could.”
Rockford responded in its final event, earning the best score of any team on the beam. Coupled with first-place scores in the vault and floor exercise as well, it was enough to balance the poor finish on bars and lift the Rams to their second-straight Finals championship.
They finished with an overall score of 144.500, ahead of runner-up Jackson Area’s total of 142.400.
Farmington United was third at 141.325, Hartland took fourth at 140.475, while Livonia Red rounded out the top five with a score of 140.350.
This year’s title might have been a little different for Rockford than last year’s in that the Rams were the prohibitive favorites, but Ankney said the thrill of victory was the same.
“It’s still the surprise of ‘we did it,’” she said. “We came out strong, and then bars was a little bit of a disappointment. We try not to check scores, and we try not to watch. When we get to (the end), it’s a 100-percent surprise what happened.”
Rockford ended up taking first on the vault with a score of 36.300, first in the floor exercise with a 37.625 and first on the beam with a score of 36.250.
The championship was Rockford’s fifth since 2015.
“We definitely had a bull’s eye on our back,” Ankney said. “We just have been training hard, and we came in saying we need to do Rockford gymnastics. We didn’t need to do anything beyond what we already do. We just needed to come in, hit, do our thing and hope for the best. It worked.”
As was the case at their Regional meet, right behind Rockford was Jackson, the 2021 Finals champion which rebounded from an eighth-place finish last year.
Despite the disappointment of last year, Jackson head coach Marcy Miller said it wasn’t really a source of motivation for this year’s meet.
“Our girls just go out there and do the best they can,” Miller said. “They honestly don’t put a lot of thought in the other team or places. Their goal is to just do the best they can that day.”
Jackson didn’t place first in any event, but took second in the bars with a score of 35.150 and tied for second in the floor exercise with a score of 37.375.
The only team besides Rockford to earn a first on an apparatus was Salem, which was best on the bars with a score of 35.350 and second in the vault with a score of 35.600.
But an 11th-place finish on the beam and a tie for sixth in the floor exercise hurt the Rocks, and resulted in a sixth-place finish overall.
A total of 26 gymnasts competed on all four apparatus for their teams, and three reached 37-point all-around scores – Grand Ledge’s Alaina Yaney (37.475), Livonia Red’s Morgan Ruffing (37.450) and Rockford’s Lacey Scheid (37.000). Hailey Hill (35.675) also competed all-around for Rockford, which had eight gymnasts in at least one event. Alyssa Budd led Jackson Area at 36.800, and Jenna Bradley scored a 36.150.
PHOTOS (Top) A Rockford gymnast competes in floor exercise during Friday’s MHSAA Team Final. (Middle) Jackson Area’s Addi Richmond dismounts near the conclusion of her beam routine. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)
We take a look at all of the action from the 2023 MHSAA Gymnastics State Finals.
Congratulations to Rockford on winning the Team Gymnastics State Title