The opening day of these 4A state gymnastics championships wasn’t so merciful to the Mount Rainier High School team.
But on Saturday, Naleia Gomes finally earned that 4A state title she’s been chasing for the past three years.
In her opening performance in the balance beam finals, Gomes scored at 9.475 out of 10. That held the rest of the way as she was awarded a medal for being best in the state on Saturday in the Tacoma Dome’s Exhibition Hall.
It came after a physically and emotionally draining Friday night in the all-around title chase, and it came after she fell off the beam a year ago as she failed to qualify for the finals.
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“It feels great,” said Gomes, a junior. “I was just trying to go in confident and do what I had to do.”
She found one other unexpected medal.
Gomes was in tears after finishing ninth in Friday’s all-around hunt, which she blamed on her performance in the uneven bars, scoring 8.45 to just barely qualify for Saturday’s finals.
Then on Saturday she was near flawless — scoring 9.375 in an event that’s plagued her throughout her high school career. It was the best score she’s ever produced in the event, Mount Rainier coach Alison Kestle said.
“I was surprised,” Gomes laughed. “I was not expecting to do as great as I did.”
And it was the top score with six gymnasts remaining until Woodinville’s Alli McManus swooped in — déjà vu — to score 9.55 and edge Gomes for the title.
It was almost like Friday, when McManus, in the final bars performance of the day, scored an event-best 9.475, which allowed her to edge past Mount Rainier freshman Karissa Saelee for the state all-around title by five-hundredths of a point, 38-37.95, in one of the more dramatic finishes.
“If we were going to lose to somebody, we were fine losing to her,” Kestle said. “She’s got so much power, and it’s condensed power. It’s grace and power. She had both.”
Saelee responded Saturday by finishing fourth in vault (9.45), tying for fifth in floor (9.45), placing seventh in the beam (8.975) and seventh in bars (9.15).
“They are fighters,” Kestle said of Gomes and Saelee. “I think that’s the good thing about them being friends — they both understand the sport so well. They know they’ll have good days and there are bad days. “
Sumner’s Emi Bacha wrapped up her final appearance in the state championships with a third-place finish in vault (9.5), with teammate Madison Blanco placing 12th (9.225).
Sumner won the 4A West Central District team title in its first year in 4A.
And Bacha said she was surprised she was able to score so high in vault because of how fatigued she was coming into Day Two after posting a 9.6 on Friday
“I was, I really was,” Bacha laughed. “I got up this morning and I was like, ‘I am so sore. But I got to power through it.’
“I’m actually really happy with how I ended it. I’m glad to know our season ended well, not just for me, but for our team.”
Mead’s Zella Conley won the vault with a score of 9.725 — her second consecutive day with that score — and she followed it up with a title in floor (9.6).
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
CLASS 4A EVENT FINALS
Uneven Bars: 1. Alli McManus (Woodinville) 9.55; 2. Naleia Gomes (Mt. Rainier) 9.375; 5. Cecelia Loudermilk (Kentlake) 9.15; 7. Karissa Saelee (Mt. Rainier) 9.0; 8. Kelly Richardson (Emerald Ridge) 8.95
Balance beam: 1. Naleia Gomes (Mt. Rainier) 9.475; 5. Bailey Miller (Emerald Ridge) 9.15; 6. Ali Tate (Auburn) 9.125; 7. Karissa Saelee (Mt. Rainier) 8.975
Floor exercise: 1. Zella Conley (Mead) 9.6; T5. Karissa Saelee (Mt. Rainier) 9.45
Vault: 1. Zella Conley (Mead) 9.725; 3. Emi Bacha (Sumner) 9.5; 4. Karissa Saelee (Mt. Rainier) 9.45