Tanager gymnasts place eighth at state

The state gymnastics meet in Watertown last weekend not only ended the current season but also the VHS careers of seniors Elly Melby and Amber Walker and Madison's 16-year string of state Class "A" championships.

Tanager coach Mark Upward had hoped his girls could have a shot at third place behind heavy favorites Deuel and Madison, but Vermillion had to settle for eighth place in the Friday "A" team competition with 124.278 points. 

The Deuel Cardinals from Clear Lake scored 144.645 to edge Madison with 141.928.  Then came Britton-Hecla, Hot Springs, Wagner, Wall-Kadoka, Stanley County, the Tanagers and Milbank.

Vermillion posted a team score of 29.099 on bars, 29.199 on beam, 33.332 on vault and 32.648 in floor exercise.

Deuel sophomore Sam Wiekamp won three of those four events and thus won the all-around title, too, with a total score of 38.432.  Melby was 18th at 32.648 and Walker 23rd at 31.065.

On the uneven parallel bars, an event won by Deuel eighth-grader Meaghan Sievers with a 9.183 score, Melby placed 21st at 7.616, Walker 23rd at 7.583, Morgan Hower 28th at 7.1, Grace Olson 34th at 6.8 and Jamie Moos 35th at 6.683.

On the balance beam where Wiekamp won with a 9.683 score, Melby was 13th at 8.55, Moos 32nd at 7.116, Rory Tucker 35th at 6.983, Jade Fostvedt 40th at 6.55, and Walkler 42nd at 6.183.

Wiekamp recorded a 9.733 score to win the floor exercise where Walker tied for 14th at 8.783.  Tucker was 31st at 8.016, Fostvedt 32nd at 7.983, Melby 34th at 7.866 and Kanyon Hower 40th at 7.583.

Melby had her highest placing, 12th, in the vault at 8.6160.  Wiekamp's winning score there was 9.866.  Walker placed 17th at 8.516, Morgan Hower 26th at 8.15, Moos 31st at 8.05 and Cheyenne Mallory 37th at 7.9.

All of Vermillion's gymnasts were eligible to compete Friday because the Tanagers had qualified as a team out of their regional meet.  On Saturday, however, only gymnasts who had qualified individually could compete in the "A" individual events.  Melby and Walker had qualified in all four, thus were in the all-around competition where Wiekamp was again a winner with a 39.1 score.  Melby was 11th at 34.05 and Walker 17th at 32.78.

Melby's highest finish was sixth in the vault at 9.03.  She was also 15th on bars at 8.27, 17th on beam at 7.9 and tied for 12th in floor exercise at 8.85.  Meanwhile, Walker tied for 31st on bars at 7.47 and was 23rd on the beam at 7.68, 14th in floor exercise at 8.8 and 13th in the vault at 8.83.

Three other Tanagers had qualified for one event each.  Fostvedt tied for 36th on the beam at 6.72, Tucker tied for 25th in floor exercise with a 8.37 scorecard and Morgan Hower placed 41st in the vault at 8.05.

Despite the impending graduation loss of Walker and Melby, Coach Upward will have back a good nucleus of young gymnasts.  Tucker, Fostvedt, Kanyon Hower, Morgan Hower and Olson are sophomores, Moos is an eighth grader, and Mallory is a seventh grader.

Vermillion's biggest trophy this year was brought home by the coach himself.  Upward received the South Dakota Gymnastics Coaches Association's award for his 30 years of coaching in Vermillion.

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