By Josh Brown
HILLIARD — Troy’s Lizzy Deal proved something during Saturday’s individual competition at the Division I state gymnastics meet.
She’s kind of a big deal.
The Trojan junior — who won an individual district championship the week before — finished fifth in the all-around competition Saturday with a score of 36.825, earning a spot on the podium among the state’s elite during the individual competition the day after helping Troy finish ninth with 136.675 during Friday’s team competition at Hilliard Bradley High School.
“The last two weeks, she’s gone above and beyond,” Troy coach Larry McCoppin said. “In our district, she just dominated. And up here, she showed that she belongs right there with the big guns, the Cleveland teams.”
Deal — who also competed in the individual all around as a sophomore, placing 27th — scored 36.475 to win the district title the previous week, only to improve by leaps and bounds Saturday. Her best finish was third in the bars (9.4), she tied for 10th on the floor (9.25), tied for 12th in the vault (9.275) and tied for 19th on the beam (8.9).
And once she finished her bars routine — which was her final event of the weekend — Deal let out her most joyous scream of Saturday’s competition.
“It’s just a ginormous relief to be over, to get all my events in. It just felt good,” she said. “It feels good to make all my skills and throw in some new skills that I’ve been working on throughout the season that weren’t consistent. Everything just felt awesome.”
“Oh, it was a huge difference,” McCoppin said of her performance this season compared to her sophomore year. “Her confidence was better, her skills were better. I think today, like the team did last week, she’s going to surprise some of these coaches that weren’t watching for her.
“One of Lizzy’s strengths is that she’s very consistent in every event. This was her second-highest all-around of the year, and the good thing is that the state meet scores more strict. To me, this was a much better accomplishment than district.”
Troy qualified as a team two seasons ago, placing sixth in a year where they were expected to make a splash before the season even began.
This year? The Trojans surprised themselves at the district tournament, scoring 139.075 to finish second and qualify as a team for state. Friday night, they beat the team that won their district — Miamisburg, which was 10th with 134.775 — en route to the ninth-place finish.
“It was a good weekend, probably better than they expected,” McCoppin said. “We got ninth, so that was exciting. We looked like we’ve looked all year, which was consistent and with good depth.
“Two years ago, that team just dominated. This team, this team fought for everything. It was one of those underdogs, and I don’t think people expected them to do what they did. They surprised people.”
Two of the Trojans, Deal and Abby Baker, also qualified for the individual competition on Saturday. Both are now two-time individual qualifier, with Baker, another junior, doing it her freshman season as well as this one, and Deal doing it the past two seasons.
“I feel pretty good. I have my family here supporting me, my friends, and I get to go around with my other teammates,” Deal said. “It feels comfortable to be with them, to cheer for them, so that probably helped.”
Baker qualified in the beam, placing 27th (8.475).
“It’s been really good and exciting,” Baker said. “Yesterday, as a team, we all worked really hard all year, so this was the big reward, being here. I’m happy with myself. Maybe it wasn’t my best routine of the year, but I’m happy that I finished strong — and that it was at state.
“I’ve had experience here, and some of the younger girls haven’t. I helped them because we’re not used to all this energy here. I told them that there’s a lot more energy and it’s louder and more exciting, you’ve got to get pumped. And this is our last meet of the year, so it’s all about having fun and being together.”
And for Deal, it may have been a long two days, but it was two great days.
“I competed the day before, too, so I’m a little tired from yesterday,” Deal said. “My body is aching from it, so that kind of wasn’t fun today. But then it was awesome to have my team. Last year, one or two people came to support me. And this year, there was six or seven of them up there with signs and everything, so it was really awesome to walk out and see them cheering for me.”
After all, she’s kind of a big deal.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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