The W.T. Woodson girls' gymnastics team can chalk up their victory at the Patriot District Gymnastics Finals on Feb. 4 to a variety of elements.
First, freshman Simone Freidman turned in an outstanding performance, winning three of the four individual events as well as the all-around competition. Then, the Cavs received a blessing in the event's scheduling.
"After the first two events ... we were down in points," head coach Mike Cooper said. "We had beam and floor left. They're my girls' favorite events. I felt that we could do well there."
The Cavaliers produced just as Cooper predicted, taking first in the balance beam and uneven bars with scores of 33.850 and 36.775, respectively.
Woodson's terrific performance in the final two events bolstered its team score to a 139.425. Lake Braddock trailed in second place with a score of 134.650 and West Potomac rounded out the top three with a score of 126.075.
Woodson's upset victory ends Lake Braddock's two-year reign as Patriot District champs, a feat Cooper said his girls had been shooting for since the first day of practice.
"We have a good group here and my four seniors have worked very hard," he said. "We may not be as strong at regionals, but we knew had a chance at [winning] the district."
Freidman provided the muscle to power Woodson's title bid, winning the all-around championship as well as taking first in the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.
Her 9.80 score on the floor exercise also set a Woodson school record at the meet.
"Floor is my favorite event and it's my strongest," she said. "I like to have fun with it."
While her individual effort shines as one of the night's best moments, she said her entire team was performing at a lights-out level.
"Normally, I pull out the high scores for the team," she said. "Today, everyone on the team was getting high scores. I was so proud."
The Cavaliers’ senior girls provided an emotional spark for the team.
"My senior girls have never been to the regional tournament as a team," said Cooper. "They really stepped it up. They wanted it the most and pushed the girls."
Senior Cassie Meeker provided a personal best score for the Cavaliers, bolstering the Cavs' team score. Meeker scored a 9.400 on the floor exercise, a feat that Cooper said was one of her best performances she's ever had.
"[The floor exercise] was a lot of fun," Meeker said. "I like the adrenaline of meets. You get hyper, you start to stick your [jumps] and you get really happy."
Meeker said she knew her floor run would be a success when she stuck her half-tuck technique during warm-ups, a jump she has had trouble landing in the past.
"Sometimes I make it and sometimes I don't," she said. "But I made it during warm-ups and I knew I was ready to go."
Senior Adrienne Kravitz also provided support for the team by finishing fourth in the uneven bars, floor exercise and balance beam.
"We were the last team to compete," she said. "So I knew we had to [hold first place] if we wanted to win."
While the Cavs are Patriot District newcomers, Cooper is more than familiar with the district's competition.
Cooper was head coach of Lake Braddock's gymnastics team from 1988 to 2000.
"It was neat to come back," Cooper said. "I was excited when we heard about the switch. I know Lake Braddock is a perennial favorite [in the Patriot District] so it was fun to go against them."
Cancelled practices due to the recent snowstorms also complicated the team’s run to the title and prompted Cooper to tell his team to treat practice like competition.
"You have to practice like you compete," he said. "If you do that, you'll do well in the meets. That's what I've told the girls."
W.T. Woodson and Lake Braddock will now advance to the Northern Region Finals on Feb. 11 at Lake Braddock Secondary School.