By Josh Brown
LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — When Troy’s gymnastics team finished third at its home invitational two weeks ago, Trojan coach Larry McCoppin couldn’t have been happier.
“At the Troy Invitational, getting third place there, I was pretty excited because even though we were third, we were within distance,” he said. “And it was not a strong meet for us.”
Because McCoppin knew what it meant heading into Saturday’s competition at the Division I district meet at Lakota East if his Trojans could put together a strong performance — which is exactly what they did.
Troy finished second place at the district meet on Saturday with a team score of 139.075, narrowly missing first place as Miamisburg won the meet with 139.400 — but still good enough to qualify for the state tournament as a team for the second time in the past three seasons. And two individuals, Lizzy Deal and Abby Baker, also qualified to compete at state as individuals, with Deal in the all-around competition and Baker on the beam.
“It didn’t come as a surprise to us, because we were able to put together a strong team effort in every event (at district),” McCoppin said. “And it was the first time this season we’ve been able to do that. It was definitely an exciting moment.”
In the 2015-16 season, Troy also qualified as a team, placing sixth overall in the state. The Trojans knew going into the season that they had a strong chance, though, and it wasn’t until this year’s Troy Invitational — which served as a district preview, with most of the teams competing there, as well — two weeks before the district meet that McCoppin thought his team truly had a solid shot.
“Two years ago, we expected to go, and this year we weren’t expected to go,” McCoppin said. “So that made it even more exciting. Our kids had their best meet of the year by far. In all four events, we were strong and very deep, which our depth has been our strength all year. We were about four points higher than at the Troy Invitational.”
At Troy, Miamisburg also won with 137.45, with Versailles finishing second with 136.2 and Troy third with 134.55, leaving the Trojans knowing they only had to climb one spot higher to qualify for state.
They certainly got everyone else’s attention at the district meet.
“At the district meet, I was talking to Miamisburg’s coach, and he was telling me that he had a couple parents checking the Versailles scores,” McCoppin said. “Towards the last rotation, he said his parents came up to him and said ‘forget about Versailles. We need to keep up with Troy.’ To be within 0.4 points of first place, that was pretty exciting.”
Making it all the more exciting was watching Deal, a junior, win the district title in the all-around competition.
Deal won the vault (9.425) and the bars (9.225) and was second on the beam (9.075) and the floor (9.275) to finish with 37.000 in the all-round, with Turpin’s Lena Bercz taking second with 36.475.
Baker, meanwhile, was fifth on the beam (8.85) to also qualify as an individual. She also scored 8.675 on the floor, 8.525 on the vault and 7.75 on the bars to finish 14th in the all-around with 33.800.
Also for the Trojans, other scores on the vault were: Sarah Kraynek (9.175), Lilli Cusick (8.025) and Lanie Hagen (7.7). Other scores on the bars were: Kraynek (8.375), Ellie Daniel (8.1), Cusick (7.125) and Carly Smith (6.9). Other scores on the beam were: Neaveh Collier (8.7), Hagen (8.65), Daniel (8.125) and Smith (7.65). Other scores on the floor were: Kraynek (8.85), Abby Otten (8.4), Daniel (8.1) and Smith (7.725).
And with a number of the Trojans having gone to the state meet two seasons ago — and Deal going as an individual last season — McCoppin expects that experience to help.
“I think it’s going to help a lot,” he said. “Six of them were on the team when we went two years ago, and I think it will be a tremendous help through this week’s practice. The newer kids have never experienced anything like high school state gymnastics. It’s so intense and so loud. There is just a lot of energy at that meet.”
And regardless of their performance this weekend, the Trojans know what they’ve already accomplished.
“Like I told the kids, the district meet was kind of our cake, and state is the icing,” McCoppin said. “I told them that the state meet is the top 12 teams in the state, and to be honest, I think the kids were a little surprised to be in that top 12. So our goal is to have a good time and perform as well as we can. My goal for the team would be to finish in the top 10, and for Lizzie, she probably had the best high school meet that I’ve seen anyone have in our district since I’ve been coaching. Her meet was just phenomenal. So I’d like to see her perform that strong again.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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