By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
ROCKFORD – Farmington United junior Elena Vargo wasn’t sure what to expect from high school gymnastics when she decided to give it a try this season.
Rockford/Sparta senior Reagan Ammon never expected her high school career to end like this.
Both received pleasant outcomes at Saturday’s MHSAA Individual Finals at Rockford High School – Vargo’s not necessarily surprising, but Ammon’s so stunning it moved her to tears multiple times.
Vargo, after leading United to the team championship Friday and posting the state's highest Regional all-around score a weekend ago, capped her first season of high school gymnastics with the Division 1 individual all-around championship. Ammon, meanwhile, moved up from fifth in 2018 to close her high school career as the all-around champion in Division 2 as she was the last to be announced at the end of a busy weekend in her home gym.
“I did come from a competitive environment, so I knew I was going to come here and I knew I was going to be competitive. But I didn’t know what the other girls were going to be like,” Vargo said. “I just knew that no matter how good or how the other girls did, I wanted to beat myself each time. So my goal for each meet was to say, OK, I got a 9.6 on bars, let’s get a 9.65. I just kinda keep pushing myself, and through that I guess that made me get to the top.”
Vargo’s all-around score of 38.000 edged that of Northville sophomore and runner-up Katelyn O’Brien by 1.325 points. Vargo finished first on vault (9.800), uneven parallel bars (9.350) and floor exercise (9.600), the vault score tying for third-highest in Division 1 Finals history.
She made the switch to high school this winter after years gaining substantial club experience. Vargo, a student at Farmington Hills Harrison, also carries a 4.0 GPA and takes part in her district’s International Baccalaureate program, and going the high school gymnastics route allowed her to still compete in the sport and focus on an increased academic load.
Farmington United – made up of students from Harrison, Farmington High and North Farmington – had a number of individual competitors Saturday, and all of Vargo’s rotations were filled with teammates. They were difference makers when Vargo took to the vault late in the afternoon.
“Because we had an hour and a half of just sitting there, I was tired, I was sick, and I guess the adrenaline really got me going,” she said. “And my coaches and my teammates, they’re the main reason motivating me. As I was going down the vault, I could actually hear them motivate me, and I’m like, ‘OK, let’s stick this.’”
Similarly, Ammon was one of five Rockford/Sparta Division 2 all-around qualifiers and was able to compete in every rotation surrounded by Rams.
She had finished 13th all-around as a sophomore before moving up to fifth a year ago, and her victory Saturday included first places on bars (9.150) and beam (9.275).
It was after that final event that she and her teammates shared an emotional moment – but there was another to come as Ammon was stunned to hear her name called last to receive her championship medal.
“It was a good day. I just didn’t know that it was that good of a day,” Ammon said. “(I knew I’d won) when they announced second place. I seriously had no idea. I wasn’t paying attention to anyone else’s scores. I was just focusing on my own performances.
“After I finished my beam routine, I knew I had stuck all my events. I was so happy.”
O’Brien’s runner-up finish in Division 1 was especially impressive as she had finished third at her Regional just a week before. She posted top-six places on three apparatuses, with a high of second to Vargo on bars. Reigning Division 1 champion Cate Gagnier, a sophomore for Grosse Pointe United, finished third all-around at 36.525. Bloomfield Hills freshman Maeve Wright made her Finals debut by winning Division 1 balance beam with a score of 9.525.
Farmington senior Kacey Noseworthy won the floor exercise (9.400) on the way to her runner-up all-around finish in Division 2, while Ammon teammate junior Morgan Case took first in Division 2 on the vault (9.400). Huron Valley sophomore Nicole Graham finished third in the Division 2 all-around at 35.700.
PHOTOS: (Top) Farmington United’s Elena Vargo performs her floor routine during Saturday’s Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Rockford/Sparta’s Reagan Ammon also competes on floor on the way to winning Division 2. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
The addition of two games to basketball regular-season schedules and a new series of wrestling weight classes are likely the most noticeable Winter 2022-23 changes as an estimated 65,000 athletes statewide take part in 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.
Girls gymnastics and boys ice hockey teams were able to begin practice Oct. 31, with the rest of those sports beginning in November – including also girls and boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls and boys skiing, Upper Peninsula girls and boys and Lower Peninsula boys swimming & diving, and girls and boys wrestling.
A variety of changes are in effect for winter sports this season, including a several that will be noteworthy and noticeable to teams and spectators alike.
Basketball remains the most-participated winter sport for MHSAA member schools with 33,000 athletes taking part last season, and for the first time, basketball teams may play up to 22 regular-season games. This increase from the previous 20-game schedule allows more games for teams at every high school level – varsity, junior varsity and freshman.
Another significant change has been made in wrestling, as the majority of boys wrestling weight classes have been adjusted for this season in anticipation of a national change coming in 2023-24. The updated boys weight classes are 106, 113, 120, 126, 132, 138, 144, 150, 157, 165, 175, 190, 215 and 285 pounds. Only 215 and 285 remain from the previous lineup. There is also one change to girls weight classes, with the 255 class replaced by 235 to also align with national high school standards.
A series of notable changes will affect how competition takes place at the MHSAA Tournament levels. In hockey, in addition to a new classification process that spread cooperative and single-school programs evenly throughout the three playoff divisions, the MHSAA Tournament will employ two changes. The Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) will be used to seed the entire Regional round, not just the top two teams, and prior to the start of Semifinals, a seeding committee will reseed the remaining four teams in each division with the top seed in each then facing the No. 4 seed, and the No. 2 seed facing No. 3.
Bowling also will see an MHSAA Tournament change, as the Team Regional format will mirror the long-standing Team Final with teams playing eight Baker games and two regular games at both levels. And as also applied during the fall girls season, there is a new qualification process for divers seeking to advance to Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming & Diving Finals. In each of the three divisions, each Regional will be guaranteed 10 qualifiers for the Finals, with six more “floating” qualifier entries to be distributed to the Regionals that have one of the previous year’s top six returning Finals divers in their fields. If a team changes division from the previous season, any floating top-six spots are added to the six already allowed in the school’s new division.
A gymnastics rules change provides an opportunity for additional scoring during the floor exercise. A dance passage requirement was added in place of the former dance series requirement to encourage creativity and a more artistic use of dance. The dance passage requires gymnasts to include two Group 1 elements – one a leap with legs in cross or side split position, the other a superior element.
In competitive cheer, the penalty for going over the time limit in each round was adjusted to one penalty point for every second over the time limit, not to exceed 15 points. The new time limit rule is more lenient than the past penalty, which subtracted points based on ranges of time over the limit.
The 2022-23 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 18 and wraps up with the Boys Basketball Finals on March 25. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:
Districts – March 6, 8, 10
Regionals – March 13, 15
Quarterfinals – March 21
Semifinals – March 23-24
Finals – March 25
Districts – Feb. 27, March 1, 3
Regionals – March 7, 9
Quarterfinals – March 14
Semifinals – March 16-17
Finals – March 18
Regionals – Feb. 24-25
Finals – March 3-4
District – Feb. 17-18
Regionals – Feb. 25
Finals – March 2-3
Regionals – March 4
Finals – March 10-11
Regionals – Feb. 20-March 1
Quarterfinals – March 4
Semifinals – March 9-10
Finals – March 11
Regionals – Feb. 13-17
Finals – Feb. 27
Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 18
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – March 2
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 10-11
Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 15
Finals – Feb. 24-25
Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 11
Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 3-4
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.