Atholton three-peat falls short Raiders finish a close third Gymnastics


Atholton's girls gymnastics team had to settle for third instead of a three-peat.

The two-time defending-champion Raiders totaled 130.1 points to finish behind Arundel (131.05) and Quince Orchard (131.025) in last night's Maryland State/Regional gymnastics meet. Oakland Mills, Howard County's only other representative, finished fourth (129.7) and was trailed by host Annapolis (121.5) and Sherwood (116.2).

The Raiders' four best all-around gymnasts -- Shannon Mennell, Heather Mennell, Michelle Benson and Sarah Gove -- placed eighth, 10th, 13th and 20th, respectively.

The Mennell twins, both juniors, Gymnastics

and seniors Benson and Gove were the Raiders' primary scorers on all four events. On floor exercise, Shannon Mennell (9.1), Heather Mennell (9.05) and Benson (9.0) set personal records.

"We don't have anyone that's competed in club competition in at least five years and we still finished third in the state," Shannon Mennell said.

Atholton coach Perri Smith said, "We have consistency and depth. But we lacked a little more depth on bars, that's what kept us out."

Indeed, the Raiders trailed Arundel, which already had finished, by 30 points heading into uneven bars -- their final event. But Atholton, with Gove and Nicole Allen attaining 4.2 scores, followed by Benson (7.5), Heather Mennell (8.7) and Shannon Mennell (8.6), couldn't pull it off. Judges count the top four scores from each event.

Shannon Mennell was happy with the Raiders' finish because they finished ahead of Oakland Mills, spoilers by 0.85 points over Atholton in last week's county championship.

"We're happy with what we did," she said. "We weren't really concerned about winning. We just wanted to beat Oakland Mills. After counties, they thought they were so much better than us. They only beat us by a point and we wanted to prove to ourselves we could beat them."

Oakland Mills senior Lori Jackson, the county all-around champion, capped her high school career impressively. She tied Arundel's Karen Newhard for second place overall (37.15) and placed first on balance beam (9.45). She also finished third on vault (8.85) and bars (9.25) and fifth on floor exercise with a 9.6 personal best.

Because she forgot to bring her floor music, Jackson had to compete out of rotation on floor and beam. She admitted feeling a little more "stress."

"I'm just glad it's over. It was a long season," she said. "After club season ended [in mid-May], senioritis took over and I got lazy."

The Scorpions had an opportunity to overtake Arundel and Quince Orchard on beam, their final event. They orchestrated a 34.2, but it wasn't enough. Callaway, a junior, admitted the team may have gotten complacent after the county title.

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