By KEVIN HARRIS
Jeffersonville High School gymnastics coach Starla Brown-McFarland hopes her team’s late-season momentum will carry over into tonight’s Columbus East Sectional, which will start at 7.
The top six gymnasts in each of the four individual sectional events — uneven parallel bars, balance beam, vault and floor exercise — and the all-around competition will qualify for the Columbus East Regional a week from today. Plus, the top three teams at sectional will move on to regional.
In last Saturday’s Columbus East Invitational, the regular-season finale for the Red Devils, Jeff posted its highest scores of the season on the vault and the bars. Also, Red Devil junior Hannah Scott posted her best all-around score of the 2013 campaign.
“They’re primed and ready to go. They’re peaking at the right time,” Brown-McFarland said. “I’ve been real impressed with how much they’ve improved.”
Jeff’s overall goal at sectional is to finish higher in the team standings than it has the past couple of seasons. The Red Devils were sixth at last year’s sectional and ended up fourth in 2011.
“As a team, we want to place higher than we’ve been placing. In the past, we’ve finished in the middle of pack,” Brown-McFarland said.
Leading the Red Devils tonight will be Haley Fugate. The senior placed ninth in the all-around at last season’s sectional, but will not compete in the event tonight because of an ankle injury she has battled all year.
Fugate will only compete in the bars and beam at sectional, and Brown-McFarland thinks Fugate can qualify for regional in both events. Last year, Fugate placed 14th in the beam and 18th in the bars. Fugate’s best sectional finishes in 2012 were a pair of fourth-place finishes in the floor exercise and the vault.
Brown-McFarland also thinks the Red Devils’ Maddy Whiteman and Alexa Waldrip have a chance at advancing to regional.
Whiteman’s best shot for a regional berth is in the floor exercise, an event the junior placed 20th in at last year’s sectional. Brown-McFarland said Waldrip, a senior, has a shot at qualifying for regional in the vault. Waldrip finished 12th in the event last year.
Along with preparing her team for the sectional, Brown-McFarland has been working on improving her gymnasts’ overall health and the program’s future throughout the season.
Brown-McFarland said her team’s workouts have definitely made the Red Devils stronger.
“Through conditioning, we’ve improved that some,” Brown-McFarland said. “Overall, our health has definitely gotten better.”
Brown-McFarland has been working hard at trying to get more girls interested in joining the Jeff gymnastics team next season. She had no newcomers on this year’s squad.
Brown-McFarland has talked to several prospective gymnasts at Parkview and River Valley middle schools. Also, the team welcomed several potential newcomers to its lone home meet of the season on Feb. 12 against Seymour.
“We’ve done some talking to some middle schoolers, and we’re looking to improve our numbers next year,” Brown-McFarland said. “With some of the positive public relations we’ve done this year, we hope our numbers will get better.”
Brown-McFarland also hopes a great showing at tonight’s sectional will influence more gymnasts to come aboard next season.
“I’m hoping that we can show them that we can produce some good results,” Brown-McFarland said.