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Trojans' Ward places 15th in All-Around at state finals

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New Castle High School sophomore Samantha Ward performs her routine on Uneven Parallel Bars during Saturday afternoon’s IHSAA gymnastics state finals at Noblesville High School. Ward’s score of 8.975 on Bars enabled her to place 16th among 44 competitors, her best finish of the day among the four events in which she competed.
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New Castle High School sophomore Samantha Ward performs one of her moves on Balance Beam during Saturday afternoon’s IHSAA gymnastics state finals at Noblesville High School. Ward’s score of 8.550 on Beam was good enough to tie her for 25th place among 46 girls performing the event.
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New Castle High School sophomore Samantha Ward goes high during her Vault routine during Saturday afternoon’s IHSAA gymnastics state finals at Noblesville High School. Ward got her highest score of the day on Vault, a 9.300 which enabled her to finish in a tie for 24th place among the 46 girls competing in the event.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

NOBLESVILLE — New Castle High School gymnast Samantha Ward competed Saturday in her second IHSAA state finals in as many years and did quite well, finishing in 15th place in the All-Around competition among 27 girls in the event held at Noblesville High School.

“I’m very happy with how I performed today,” Ward said after the meet. “Although it doesn’t look like I’ll get on the podium, I did a lot better than I did last year and there are some things I can work on and improve that could help me next year if I get back here.”

Chesterton won the team championship with a score of 113.875. Finishing second through ninth in the team standings were Carroll (Fort Wayne) 110.975, Lake Central 110.175, Portage 109.025, Columbus North 108,575, Homestead 107.500, Angola 106.100, Columbus East 103.600, and Richmond 102.375.

Girls rotated among the events of Vault, Uneven Parallel Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise during the four-hour state finals. Ward was in a group primarily composed of the girls from Columbus North and Lake Central, plus Cassie Zehr of Pendleton Heights.

Ward performed on Uneven Parallel Bars in her first rotation and achieved a mark of 8.975, a good score which enabled her to finish 16th among 44 competitors in the event, almost in the top third. It was Ward’s highest placing on the day.

“I was really happy with my score on Bars,” Ward said. “I think it was one of the better routines I’ve had on it this season.”

Chesterton’s Mia Pak, McCutcheon’s Crystal Dilley, and Chesterton’s Sophia Hunzelman tied for first place on Bars with a score of 9.600 apiece.

The next event for Ward in the second rotation was Balance Beam, which some consider the most difficult of the four events. Ward scored 8.550 on Balance Beam, good enough to finish in a tie for 25th place with Columbus North’s Ashley Niebrugge among 46 girls in the event.

“To get an 8.550 score on Beam is really good for me,” Ward remarked. “I don’t do some of the more difficult moves on it that other girls do and I more or less play it safe. One nice thing about today’s Beam routine is I didn’t fall off of it like I did last year.”

Hunzelman of Chesterton achieved a score of 9.725 on Beam to finish first in the event.

After a 10-minute break, Ward moved to Floor Exercise for her third rotation, which might be considered the most competitive event at the state finals due to the large number of girls who are pretty good at it.

Ward scored exactly a 9.000 on Floor Exercise, which tied Chesterton’s Hailee Glenwood for 32nd place as Glenwood also had a 9.000.

“Sam had two nines today, a high eight, and a mid-range eight for her scores today,” New Castle Coach Tina Hittson said. “We’re really pleased on how well she performed. Floor is very competitive at state with a lot of girls exhibiting difficult moves. The scores start high and kind of remain there throughout the day.”

Chesterton’s Sophia Bush was awarded a 9.725 on Floor which enabled her to finish first among the 46 competitors.

Only one event was left for Ward, and that was Vault (her best one) for her fourth rotation. Each girl was given two attempts, the best one counted, and Ward scored 9.300 on Vault, putting her in a 24th-place tie with Angola’s Ashtyn Evans, who also got a 9.300.

“I’m really pleased with my Vault score,” Ward added. “It’s one of the better ones I’ve had this season. It was a nice way to end my day.”

Chesterton’s Pak got a score of 9.700 on Vault, which placed her first among the 46 girls attempting the event.

Ward’s scores on her four events composed her score for the All-Around competition, which was 35.825. As already noted, that was good for 15th place among the 27 competitors.

“I think Sam’s All-Around score was the highest she’s had this season,” Hittson added. “We plan to work with her so that she can score even higher next season when she gets back here. I’m proud of all my girls for the excellent 12-1 season we had this year and hope we can bring more girls to the state finals next year.”

Ward can be pleased that her score was 0.050 points better than the 16th-place score of Richmond’s Elizabeth Ruger, who won the All-Around competition at the Connersville sectional in which New Castle competed.

Ward also finished ahead of Zehr in the All-Around, as Zehr finished in 18th place with a score of 35.575.

Ashlynn Steinke, with a score of 38.125, barely nosed past Bush of Chesterton (38.100) for first-place in the All-Around competition.

Bush can take some consolation in the fact that she was the recipient of the Mildred M. Ball Mental Attitude Award, which goes to a deserving senior gymnast each year.