Plymouth gymnastics team takes third at Wawasee Sectional, advances to regional

SYRACUSE — It’s been a long time coming for the Plymouth High School gymnastics team to place third or better at the sectional level and advance to the regional round of the IHSAA gymnastics state tournament.
So long in fact that two members of that 2006 team, Dani Ramos and Dani McPherron, are now assistant coaches for the Pilgrims. After Saturday, those two can look forward to now having been both a gymnast and a coach at the regional level.
The Pilgrims finished third out of 12 teams at the Wawasee Sectional Saturday, scoring a 100.4 to narrowly beat out Elkhart Central’s 100.275 for the right to advance, while ninth-ranked Dekalb edged 10th-ranked Angola for the sectional title 106.575 to 106.050.
“We knew coming in we had a good shot at third,” said PHS head coach Dr. Tony McPherron. “I told the girls we drew a great rotation, starting on bars which we have worked and worked the last few weeks and finishing on vault which is our best event. I promised them if we got through bars and beam with one fall or less and scored over 100 we would advance. I didn’t realize Elkhart would come that close to making me a liar.”
The Pilgrims have spent the majority of the practice time the last week on bars due to every one of their five girls having injuries that limited them on the other events.
The extra time paid off as the Pilgrims came out of the gate on a roll on bars with sophomore Nicky Davis and freshman Cassie Quissell having what McPherron called their best routines of the year.
“We all added some new things on bars or cleaned some things up for sectional because we couldn’t do a lot on the other events,” said Quissell. “Doctor (McPherron) and I spent a lot of time getting my giants on high bar. It felt great to compete on them for the first time today.”
Quissell would score a 8.175 and Davis an 8.2 on bars, eventually land them in ninth and seventh place, respectively, in the event.
Plymouth then moved to the beam where they have struggled with falls at times this year. Junior Traci Longanecker was first up for the Pilgrims. Plagued by a foot injury for several weeks, she tweaked the foot on a jump early and struggled through the rest of the routine with three falls.
With only four girls allowed on each event and scoring three of them, the Pilgrims would need the next three girls to be near perfect to keep their hopes alive.
Senior captain Maggie Morrow delivered with a no fall routine and was followed by Quissell with another no fall routine. In the Pilgrims’ last entry, Davis nearly had one but landed awkwardly on a skill to finish with one fall.
“Maggie did what I would expect out of my seniors. She stepped up and got us back on track,” said McPherron. “She has been a rock for us all year. She knows she isn’t our best gymnast, but she is still a great leader for the younger girls. I rely on the seniors a lot and they always come through.”
After bars and beam — the two lowest scoring events for the Pilgrims on the year — Plymouth felt it was still in a good position to advance. The Pilgrims had good scores, but, more importantly, only had the one fall by Davis scored in the two events. And, they were up next on floor, their second best event throughout the year.
Disaster nearly struck Plymouth on the floor, howeve as Longanecker, who had recovered from tweaking her foot on beam, fell during a tumbling pass and injured herself to the point she was unable to finish the routine. With her 8.28 average on floor for the year gone, Morrow, who led off for Plymouth on floor, would have her 7.9 score count toward the team scores.
Plymouth again looked for Davis and Quissell to have good events, and both came through by topping their season averages.
Davis posted an 8.825 and Quissell an 8.8 on floor as the duo’s scores placed them in sixth and seventh, respectively, in the individual event standings.
With the loss of nearly 0.4 points on floor based on averages, the Pilgrims found themselves in fifth place after three events. Down by three points to Elkhart and one point to Lakeland, Plymouth could not have hoped for a better event to finish on as the Pilgrims got to finish on vault while the other two schools would be finishing on bars.
“We knew we would need a good vault from (junior) Rachael (Principe) and even better from Cassi and Nicky,” McPherron said. “I told them yesterday this whole meet may come down to Nicky landing her Tsuk vault, which is a difficult vault to do. I couldn’t be more proud of what those three did on vault.”
Prinicipe started them off with an 8.6, and Quissell followed with a 9.1.
The Pilgrim coaches were watching the bar scores and doing the mental math realizing that the chance to move on as a team would indeed come down to Davis’ vault. She came out on her first vault and landed it, posting a 9.05 score. That was enough to “vault” the Pilgrims into third place and the right to move on to the regional round.
“He (Coach McPherron) told me yesterday it may come down to me and he was right,” said Davis. “I have struggled with the Tsuk all year since hurting my ankle at Valpo in January. I was able to move on to regionals as an individual last year, and I really wanted if for all my teammates this year so I knew I had to stick it. I am just glad we get to move on together for at least another week.”
The Pilgrims’ reward for their comeback is a trip to Valparaiso High School for the most difficult regional in the state on Friday night. In addition to Plymouth, Dekalb and Angola, the other teams present will be top-ranked Valpo, second-ranked Portage, and fourth-ranked Chesterton. The meet starts at 7 a.m.
At Syracuse
Team scores: Dekalb 106.575, Angola 106.050, Plymouth 100.400, Elkhart Central 100.275, Lakeland 97.550, Warsaw 95.725, East Noble 93.775, Wawasee 93.300, West Noble 55.850, Hamilton 36.725, Fairfield 30.025, Tippy Valley 29.375
Individual Plymouth scores (Places in parentheses)
Name Vault Bars Beam Floor AA
Maggie Morrow 8.25 (28) 6.65 (27) 7.8 (20) 7.9 (25) 30.6 (21)
Rachael Principe 8.6 (22)
Traci Longanecker 5.8 (31) 6.475 (31) 7.1 (33)
Nicky Davis 9.05 (5) 8.2 (7) 8.275 (8) 8.825 (6) 34.35 (7)
Cassi Quissell 9.1 (3) 8.175 (9) 9.025 (4) 8.8 (7) 35.1 (5)