LHSAA Gymnastics State Meet Provides Exciting Moments For State’s Top Gymnasts

By MIKE STROM // GeauxPreps.com Contributor

Dwayne Johnson Jr.’s pursuit of gold did not start out as well as expected in the Ochsner LHSAA Gymnastics State Championships.

Johnson’s finish proved much better as the St. Augustine sophomore won first places in his final four events to win the All-Around gold medal for Level 10 competitors Friday in the boys competition staged at Baton Rouge Magnet High School.

State All-Around runner-up as a freshman, Johnson rebounded from hiccups in the opening floor exercise and pommel horse to win still rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar and capture All-Around gymnast honors with a score of 71.700.

Johnson won the rings with a score of 12.400, the vault at 12.700, the parallel bars at 11.800 and high bar at 12.000.

“I’m pretty relieved because there was a lot of pressure,’’ Johnson said. “But I knew I needed to win. So I just kind of took a deep breath and did what I had to do.’’

The Dutchtown Lady Griffins, likewise, took care of business in successfully defending their Girls Overall Team Championship in addition to sweeping the girls team championships in Divisions 1 (Level 8), 2 (Level 4) and 3 (Level 1) on Saturday.

Dutchtown swept the top two places in the Saturday meet’s final event, the Level 8 floor exercise, to total 229.52500 points and just edge St. Joseph’s Academy’s 229.47500 total in the Girls Overall Team Championship competition.

Seniors Dylann Lambert and Ella Freeman scored 9.500 and 9.450 respectively to supply the winning margin after Hannan Hernandez won the Level 4 Individual All-Around competition and Ali Kuehler and Peyton Lambert tied for first in the Level 3 Individual All-Around to spur the Lady Griffins to team championships at those Division 2 and 3 levels as well.

“It was a day,’’ Dutchtown coach Erin McGrew said through a sigh of relief. “It ended up being a great day. The two early groups, Level 3 and Level 4, did a great job and had us at a pretty good advantage going into that last round. We had some ups and some downs with our (Level) Eights, but they did their job.

“We talked going in and we said we were just going to take it event by event. We’re going to do the best we can, shake off that event and go on to the next one. We didn’t have the best beam rotation. We had some discrepancies as far as the judging, but we knew that it was kind of tight. And (Dutchtown’s girls) did it. They took the last event, went into floor and they did their jobs. I was proud of them for being able to pull it back together.’’

Hernandez won the vault and parallel bars with scores of 9.825 and 9.875 respectively while winning the Level 4 Girls All-Around competition with a score of 38.800. Hernandez also was second in floor exercise (9.425) and tied for third in balance beam (9.675).

Kuehler won the vault with a score of 9.900, tied for second in floor exercise at 9.525, finished sixth in parallel bars at 9.550 and tied for 11th in balance beam at 9.575 in sharing the Level 3 Girls Individual All-Around championship with Lambert with scores of 38.550. Lambert finished second in the balance beam (9.825), tied for third in vault (9.700), tied for fourth in floor exercise (9.500) and seventh in parallel bars (9.525).

Mallory Mitchell was Dutchtown’s top scorer in Level 8 Individual All-Around with a total of 35.975 good for a tie for fifth place with Sarah Smith of Haynes Academy.

Isabelle McDermott of St. Joseph’s Academy won the Level 8 Girls Individual All-Around championship with a score of 37.475. McDermott’s winning score included no first places, but rather a second in parallel bars (9.400), two respective third places in balance beam (9.350) and floor exercise (9.400) and a fourth in vault (9.325).

Aleigh St. Roman of St. Joseph’s finished second to McDermott in Level 8 All-Around with a score of 37.150 that included two first places, in vault (9.650) and parallel bars (9.500). Rhyanna Leblanc of East Ascension was third in Level 8 All-Around at 36.675.

Molly Doiron of Morgan City earned second-place honors in the Girls Level 4 Individual All-Around behind Dutchtown’s Hernandez. Doiron scored 38.625 points with a first in balance beam at 9.725. Amarii Shaw of Baton Rouge Magnet finished third in the Girls Level 4 All-Around with 38.525 points that included a first-place score in floor exercise at 9.475.

Sarah Atkinson of St. Joseph’s Academy took third in the Level 3 Girls Individual All-Around competition behind Dutchtown’s Kuehler and Lambert. Atkinson scored 38.450 points without benefit of a first-place finish in any of the four individual events.

Dutchtown’s girls won the Division 2 (Level 4) team championship with a score of 114.950 to best runner-up St. Joseph’s 114.175 and third-place Parkview Baptist’s 112.225. St. Amant and Mount Carmel finished fourth and fifth respectively with scores of 110.675 and 109.925.

The Lady Griffins won the Division 3 (Level 3) team championship with a total of 115.850. St. Joseph’s and Parkview Baptist finished second and third respectively at 115.225 and 111.450 with Baton Rouge Magnet and St. Amant fourth and fifth with scores of 111.375 and 109.250.

Dutchtown won the Division I (Level 8) team championship with a re-vised score of 106.725, 9 points higher than the original score it was awarded, according to tournament officials. The Lady Griffins initially were declared as the third-place finisher in Division I behind Thomas Jefferson and Mount Carmel.

Thomas Jefferson finished second in Division I with a score of 104.000 followed by Mount Carmel at third at 98.650, Sacred Heart of New Orleans fourth at 84.000 and St. Joseph’s Academy at fifth at 74.625. Those four schools’ scoring was unchanged, according to tournament officials.

Thomas Jefferson originally was awarded the Girls Division I (Level 8) Team championship with a score of 104.000 to best second-place Mount Carmel’s 98.650 total with Dutchtown finishing third at 97.325 followed by Sacred Heart at fourth with 84.000 and St. Joseph’s fifth with 74.625.

“We had a really good lead going into the last rotation,’’ McGrew said. “We think some of the girls were just having an off day. We talked after the beam rotation and said just shake it off. You have to get your head back in this. We went to floor and they’re just so strong. I was so excited for them, Dylann Lambert and Ella Freeman. They took first and second place in floor. They had the highest two scores and pulled us back into first place.

“But it was close. It was really close. My Level 3s and my Level 4s, I’m not going to discount them at all. The competition kind of fell at Level 8, but Hannan Hernandez knocked it out of the park. She was Level 4 state champion. Everybody just did their jobs. I told them. It’s just like every day. Bring your everyday gymnastics and it’s enough.’’

In Friday’s boys competition, Kaden Romig of St. Paul’s won first place in the opening floor exercise with a score of 12.800 and finished as All-Around silver medalist behind Johnson with a score of 68.700. Avery Anderson of Patrick Taylor finished third in the All-Around at 68.300 despite not winning an individual event.

Kai Cintott-Clary of Ben Franklin won the other Level 10 individual event, pommel horse, with a score of 11.600. Johnson’s scores in floor exercise and pommel horse were 12.300 and 10.500 respectively.

Baton Rouge Magnet won the boys overall team championship with a score of 343.900 after sweeping the Division I and Division 2 competition with scores of 185.800 and 158.100 respectively. Baton Rouge Magnet was the only boys team to compete for championship honors.

Lucas Miller of Dutchtown swept all six individual events to win the All-Around competition in Level 4 with a score of 60.200. Level 4 is the LHSAA’s entry level of boys competition. Miller scored 10.300 in floor exercise, 10.400 in pommel horse, 9.900 in still rings, 9.300 in vault, 9.500 in parallel bars and 10.800 in high bar.

Zareb Gray and Landon Simien of Baton Rouge Magnet finished second and third respectively in the Level 4 All-Around competition with overall scores of 52.600 and 51.800.

Johnson was the individual champion in Level 10 parallel bars last season as a freshman, but struggled out of the gate Friday when he failed to place in the opening events, floor exercise and pommel horse, for a second consecutive year.

“I started off kind of weird because I did my (floor) routine and I messed up a flip,’’ Johnson said. “And I kind of didn’t know what to do, so I went to do another flip and I fell.

“After floor, we had pommel and I was doing pretty good in my warmups, but once I started my routine my arms started to tremble. They just started to hurt. I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ Then I started to pray because I was getting on rings and that is my event. That’s when I started to turn it around.’’

“I did pretty good in the vault,’’ Johnson said. “Parallel bars went well. After rings, everything was fine. I was already a good amount of points ahead.’’

Not that there still weren’t anxious moments.

“I’m pretty sure that on the fourth event (vault), I’m not going to lie, I thought I was going to lose,’’ Johnson said. “I was still confident, but it was not looking too good. But you can always bring it back, that’s what I know.’’

Support from a group of 15 family members and friends headed by his mother Cedra King proved consequential.

“There was a lot of people there,’’ Johnson said. “There were so many people out there to support me, I knew that I needed to win this competition because everybody (there) was like, ‘Just please win.’ And I needed to bring home the gold for St. Aug. I knew I needed to (win) for everybody, and even for me, but really for everybody because everybody really was needing this win.’’

“I’m so relieved that it’s over because there was so much pressure going on,’’ Johnson said. “I didn’t realize there was so much pressure until I was actually done competing. It felt like a 1,000 pounds of weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I was like, ‘Oh, God, yes.’ I was just relieved to win and I was just very happy.’’