By DAVE HANNEMAN
Alexa Settlemire and Erin Rauschenberg admit they had a pretty good time at the 2011 state gymnastics tournament.
But they are seniors now, more skilled and more determined, and setting their sights much higher.
“The last time we were there was our sophomore year and it was a lot of fun,” Settlemire said.
“Obviously we’re doing a lot better this year. This year we’re going there to compete, do the best we can and try to get the highest scores we can get.”
“We’re going there to compete, not just have fun,” added Rauschenberg.
“One of our big goals was to hit 143 points and break the school record. As a team we’re shooting for second place (at state), and we’re going to see how far up there we can get.”
Rauschenberg isn’t selling Findlay short by saying the Trojans are shooting for second place. Rather, she is crediting the dominance of a Brecksville-Broadview Heights program that will be gunning for its tenth straight and 16th overall championship when the state gymnastics team competition gets under way Friday at Hilliard Bradley High School.
Brecksville scored 147.675 points in winning its district title, by far the most points of any of the 12 teams qualifying for the state meet. That wasn’t even the highest score of the season for the Bees, who reportedly will make a bid for the state meet points record (149.900) Brecksville scored in winning the 2005 title.
“Brecksville is kind of in a league of their own,” Rauschenberg said. “But we’re going to put up a fight. We’re going to give them a run for their money.”
Anything can happen at the state meet, however. A slip here or a fall there can have a major effect on a team’s score, and a number of strong contenders, including Findlay High, will be looking to take advantage.
Findlay won the Northwest District with a 141.900 score, second best among the state qualifers. It was the fourth time the Trojans scored over 140 points in a meet, and the best may be yet to come.
“We keep saying if we hit, we believe we can get the school record. But as of right now we have not hit as a team yet,” said FHS coach Traci Dunn.
“Alexa (Settlemire) fell on the beam at district. Maranda (Butler), another one of our top scorers, had a bit of an off day as well.
“I know the pressure is greater (at state). But I think we’re peaking at the right time and if we can hit (the routines) and count our top four scores, I think we should do very well.”
Settlemire, a two-time Three Rivers Athletic Conference Gymnast of the Year and four-time state qualifier, has been the all-around champion in almost every one of Findlay’s meets so far. But the team’s overall success, she says, goes much farther.
“We’re very average. But average gets you a long way,” Settlemire said.
“What I mean by that is we are very consistent in our scores. Not everyone gets in the high 9’s. But we also don’t get low scores.
“A lot of teams have one person who gets really high scores. But if you don’t have consistency, you’re not going anywhere.
“That’s what this team has, consistency.”
Settlemire and Rauschenberg are the senior veterans on a team that includes junior Tiffany Crawford, sophomores Butler and Tori Cox and freshmen Bridgette Dunn, twins Lacey and Leah Thomas and Shelby Swonger.
“Alexa and Erin have been telling the younger girls how mentally and physically exhausting it is in a two-day competition,” Dunn said.
“We’ve been mentally preparing for this since day one, though. We knew we were going to be strong, so we’ve been trying to tell the girls what they need to do. We knew we might not see this caliber of gymnastics all year. That’s why getting in big meets like the one at Worthington Kilbourne and the (Sylvania) Southview Invitational were huge.”
Findlay High’s best finish in the state gymnastics meet was a runner-up showing in 2003. The Trojans were also third in 1999, and fourth in 2001, ‘04 and ‘05.
While Brecksville is a heavy favorite, the battle for second could be fierce. In addition to Findlay, Mason (141.425), Worthington Kilbourne (140.625) and Strongsville (140.450) also topped the 140-point mark in their district meets.
“Second through fourth (place) is going to be within one point, I can just feel it,” Settlemire said.
“Every tenth of a point is going to count, definitely.”
Settlemire, Cox and Leah Thomas will also be taking part in Saturday’s individual competition in all four routines and the all-around standings. Rauschenberg and Butler are alternates, and will also see action on Saturday if one of the gymnasts who finished ahead of them in the district meet cannot compete at state.
State Gymnastics Qualifiers
CENTRAL DISTRICT: 1, Worthington Kilbourne 140.625; 2, Dublin Coffman 138.925; 3, Thomas Worthington 136.125.
EAST/NORTHEAST/SOUTH EAST DISTRICT: 1, Brecksville 147.675; 2, Strongsville 140.450; 3, Hudson 138.325; 4, Medina 137.500; 5, Rocky River Magnificat 136.500.
NORTHWEST DISTRICT: 1, Findlay 141.900; 2, Springfield 134.9.
SOUTHWEST DISTRICT: 1, Mason 141.425; 2, Centerville 134.300.