Alex Nickel talks about her day at state gymnastics

Angola junior Alex Nickel finished second in the all-around for a second straight year

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State gymnastics finals

Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Bishop Dwenger’s Katy Linvill performs on the vault during the gymnastics state finals Saturday at Ball State in Muncie.

Saints finish 3rd at state gymnastics finals

– A year ago, it came down to a mere sliver – the four-inch width of the balance beam, which Bishop Dwenger used as a four-lane highway to the state gymnastics title in the day’s last rotation.

This time around, there was a trifle more air involved. And a bit – just a bit – less drama.

Portage, which spent most of the postseason chasing 2012 state runner-up Valparaiso, put up big numbers in the vault (29.200) and floor exercise (28.700), its middle rotations, then hung on to topple Valpo for the state title Saturday at Worthen Arena.

Portage finished with 112.6 points, a mere half-a-point clear of the Vikings. Dwenger finished third with 110.975 points, which meant the top three teams were separated by little more than a point-and-a-half.

“That’s not too much considering every tenth of a point counts in gymnastics,” said Dwenger coach Rose Nix. “It’s not like in basketball where you have two points for a basket. You have tenths that we’re counting.

“So I think the top three were pretty close.”

And it meant every slight bobble was magnified. The Saints opened with a 28.000 in the vault – it left them a quarter-point out of the lead after the first rotation – but couldn’t quite match those numbers in their next two rotations, the bars and beam.

Dwenger scored a 27.350 in the former and 27.225 in the latter, then finished strong with a 28.400 in the floor exercise.

“I think we were pretty solid, and I think we did really well on our vault today,” said Katy Linvill, who finished fifth in the all-around and sixth in floor exercise. “We can improve, which is a good thing because it’s fun to improve.”

Angola standout Alex Nickel won’t have to improve a lot. The defending champion in the uneven bars and the balance beam, she finished third behind Mackenzie Barcelli of Portage and Valpo’s Morgan Algozine in the former this time and failed to place in the latter.

But for the second year in a row, she finished second in the all-around, a good day for someone who missed two months of the season with a partially torn ligament in her elbow. Her first meet back was the sectional.

At state, where Algozine beat her out a year ago, she finished with a 38.150, just a tick behind all-around champ Barcelli, who finished with 38.325. Nickel scored a 9.7 in the vault, 9.625 in the bars, 9.625 in the floor exercise and 9.20 on the balance beam, where she fell off.

“Obviously it would have been nice not to fall off the beam, but with my injury and being out for two months, I lost a lot of my consistency,” Nickel said. “Overall, though, I beat my score from last year.”

And overall, Dwenger would go home happy about its day, too.

“I think overall all of the girls did well,” said Nix, who, in addition to Linvill, also got a fourth in floor ex from Kaitlyn Coffee. “We finished on floor, which, all the girls love to perform floor. And I think all of our floor routines really shined.

“I think they did a great job on the beam routines. That’s a lot of pressure to do beam at state and they kept themselves together. Katy had the one fall, but you might do that every once in awhile, and last weekend she got the 9.8 on beam. Bars we stuck everything and vault we stuck everything.

“So, really, I think on the whole the whole group did a wonderful job. We kind of lost a 10th (of a point) here or there, but I think on the whole they performed quite well.”