Raiders News · Farmington United Gymnasts Earn the State Championship Crown


Farmington United competed this past Friday and Saturday at Rockford High school for the Gymnastics State Finals. Team competition was Friday with individuals competing on Saturday.

I figured there would be four teams in the mix for the championship: us, Rockford ( 3 year reining champs), Livonia Blue and Northville. I knew it would be close. Our only loss this season was to Rockford at their Invite, but we beat them later in the year. The times we beat Northville and Livonia were extremely close meets where we won by tenth’s. We were at full strength and we would need everyone’s contributions to win.

The meet was crazy as each team kept hitting outstanding performances throughout the day. It’s so incredibly hard to win a state meet. Although we had beat all three of those teams, we had to prove ourselves again. The old saying “ you’re only as good as your last game” says it all.

If I had to pick a group of athletes to give us a shot I would pick these girls as they were driven all season. I told them before the meet I would bet on them to win it because I liked what they bring to the table. They proved themselves so many times this season. They learned to grind it out during the season. They learned that meets can be determined by tenths. They learned to not get down when they had an off day. You can tell a team that all day long, but to actually do it is another. I am so proud of these athletes.

To recap the meet:

We started on beam – an event that determines many meets. Coach Kim Mandrelle does an awesome job with these girls. Herself a state champ, a competitor who fell only once in her entire college career at EMU , she manages to pass on her secrets to these girls and they are always successful. Ava Farquhar started us off because she handles pressure well. When she hits, it takes a little pressure off the remaining competitors. She proceeded to nail her routine – a huge boost for us. Freshman Sydney Schultz showed no signs of pressure as she calmly knocked down a huge beam routine. We only counted one fall. With those results I knew we had a chance.

Floor was outstanding. Shelby Smith ( who became All-State on floor on Saturday) started us off with a low nine. After that Emily Stecevic, Elisa Bills, and Kacey Noseworthy each hit routines in the mid-nines. The girls took this momentum into Vault.

Lily Tyler led us off with a great vault for her first taste of competition at a state meet. Ava followed with the same vault, a handspring full. The next two vaults were critical as both Kacey and Elisa throw difficult piked tsukara vaults. In my head I knew we needed these big scores with all these other teams posting big scores. Both proceeded to hit their vaults.

The last event was bars. I knew we had to be up near the top but I didn’t know scores at that point. This was the event where two years ago we were in the same position but lost it by counting too many falls. I thought no way this happens again. Despite some stops and a fall in the early routines, freshman Sydney Schultz came up big again and killed it – the second time during this meet. Kacey was next and had a save that most gymnasts would have fallen on – that was crucial. Elisa pulled through with a very nice routine.

At that point I knew we had edged Rockford by 0.3 but Northville still had to compete. They had to hit a 37.1 to tie us. They have the best vaulting team in the state and I give those gymnasts credit as they hit

vault after vault under huge pressure. The last gymnast had to hit a 9.65 to win. That moment seemed to last forever. She nailed her vault and scored a 9.45. With our math we win, but it wasn’t until they announced it that reality hit.

The meet was like watching “Rocky”. It was so emotional and filled with pressure. When they finally announced us as state champs a lot of tears flowed. All that work the entire season paid off.

I have to also give credit to those non-competitors as these girls work their magic with their friends behind the scenes when someone needs a pick up. You could hear them screaming the entire meet. They also worked just as hard in the gym as those who were competing – I hope they understand how crucial they are to the team.

The other coaches are crazy good. Kim Mandrelle has been with me for the past 16-17 years. She was crucial to our past championship seasons and for our success the past 16 years. I also want to acknowledge Amanda Lumley who has been with us for the past 4-5 years – she was state champ on floor two different years. Nicole Daihl started helping us last year. She was a member of the championship teams in 2005-2006. Together their experience and competitiveness help drive this team.

INDIVIDUALS:

The girls continued to do well on Saturday as three gymnasts became All-State in the All around plus other individual events, and three others became all-state on specific events ( results in MHSAA website)

Elisa Bills – senior – All State on all individual events ( 7th on vault, 3rd on bars, 1st on beam, 4th on floor) and 1st All-around

Elisa pulled off a feat that does not happen a lot winning the All-Around competition for two years in a row. I have not coached an athlete who has accomplished such a task in my 31 years, and I have been blessed with a lot of talent. It wasn’t an easy accomplishment as she had to overcome a knee injury in early February. She didn’t come back from the injury until the week of the Regional meet and at that point just started testing it out to see what it could handle. To do this, to get past her fear of her knee, and to get back all of her tricks in such a short time took a lot of work and courage.

The appearance of this tiny athlete can be deceiving. She has proven herself over time to be one of the top gymnasts in the state over a two year span. This is not an easy feat. It takes someone special to pull this off. Her ability to learn to handle pressure over the years and to trust her God-given talent are a huge part of her success. I remember we discussed her trying to win it all again at the beginning of the season. I typically don’t like to put pressure on an athlete, but I knew what she was capable of. In my head I knew she had the mental toughness to pull it off.

Athletes like this don’t come along very frequently. I tried to think how hard it would be to know that you are capable of winning it all and then to go out and believe in yourself and get it done. How incredibly hard is that? She deserves all these accolades. I knew this was her last meet. I always pay attention to a gymnast’s demeanor prior to starting a routine as it tells me a lot- especially the eyes – and hers showed pure determination and focus- huge assets that are needed in any competition.

What a way to end a career.

You can’t replace an athlete like this- she will be missed not only for her skills but also for her as a genuine, caring person.

Kacey Noseworthy– All-State in every event ( 8th on vault and bars, 3rd on beam, 5th on floor, 3rd in the All-around.

Kacey is key to our team as she too is amongst the top gymnasts in the entire state. She demonstrated this after finishing 3rd in the all-around about a half-point behind Elisa. She is that kid that everyone picks first in any pickup game because she is so competitive and determined. She doesn’t stop. Her story is also crazy because a year ago she tore her ACL right before the regional meet. I didn’t know if she could make it back in such a sport that puts so much stress on the knees, but Kacey was back in the gym weeks after her operation doing whatever strength work she could.

She has the ability to dig deep when needed. She displayed this both days. In the individual meet she had a major set back on floor. She nailed a 9.5 routine which would have been good for second place but due to a -0.2 uniform deduction , slipped to 5th place. I normally wouldn’t tell her of that deduction but I had to before her next event- vault – so she didn’t get the same deduction. She was devastated but I think every coach screamed to her that if anyone was tough enough it was her. Her flipping tsukara vault requires a lot of energy and we could see she was down. We didn’t want her to finish that way and it was too important for her all around score. With her ability to dig deep, she pulled it off and proved again that she is one of the best in this sport

Ava Farquhar – all state on vault, beam and all around (7th)

Ava was on top of her game the entire weekend. We had her lead off on most events because she is so consistent and focused during her routines. I am always confident she will go 100%. This was her highest all around score in her career- occurring at the most difficult of meets. She is learning how a positive mental attitude goes a long ways in competitions. When she is up she has a tendency to get the team up. She added 2 new high level tricks just a few weeks ago to her bar and floor routines and it paid off. We told her go for it for this weekend and look what happened- 7th in the all around. I don’t know if she thought she was capable of this- but she knows it now. I am so proud of her

Emily – All – state 3rd on floor

Emily is the “spirit” of this team. She has used this positive attitude to become a very strong gymnast. Last year she was All-State in the all around but a tough regional meet cost her another chance this year. She did qualify on floor for the state meet. Not qualifying for the all around was devastating but she regained her spirit in time for the team finals. We needed her on every event and it obviously paid off.

Her spirit really helps lift the team. It really shows on floor as her smile and eyes light up the room. The judges love it and they reward her for it. This is why she is third in the state with a 9.5. She has literally willed her way into this position as a young freshman. She is a great example for those who are just starting on the team. Her absence will be hard to replace next year.

Shelby Smith – All- state on floor (10th)

I was so happy for Shelby to become All-State. She has worked so hard throughout the year. She really shines on floor during her routine. She is on the verge of harder tricks on this event and others. This gives her the potential to become a contender on multiple events next season. I can’t wait to see what happens.

Sydney Schultz – all-state on bars -5th,

What a way to start a career. Besides nailing her beam routine during the team finals, Sydney might have had her most important routine on bars. It was our last event and we had some problems in our first two routines. We had to have a solid routine from her to regain some confidence and she calmly knocked it down. I can’t overstate the importance of that routine under such pressure to help us win a state title. It goes unnoticed but she was 12th in the all-around, just missing out.

Lily Tyler

Lily competed for the team finals on the vault. We were desperate earlier in the season for a higher scoring vault and she pulled through. She counted towards the team score where every tenth of a point counts. I am so proud of her efforts

Allison Schultz

Allie had the hardest job at this time of year as she was the alternate on every event. This means I have to have her warm –up each event just in case something happens to a competitor. I need to give her a shout out so she knows how much I appreciate her doing such a thankless task. I know I will be counting on her much more as her career progresses as she has so much potential.