West Potomac gymnast Marien Voorhees makes two things clear when she competes: She has talent and she likes to smile.
At last season’s Patriot District championship meet, West Potomac failed to qualify for regionals as a team, finishing outside of the top two. Head coach Pete Novgrod said the Wolverines made uncharacteristic mistakes, which contributed to their coming up short against tough Woodson and Lake Braddock teams. Voorhees, a freshman smiling through braces at the time, qualified individually for regionals in one of four events, struggling with the same mistakes that plagued other West Potomac gymnasts.
One year later, the Wolverines were back at the district championship meet on Feb. 3 at Lake Braddock Secondary School. West Potomac once again missed out on regionals, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. Despite competing without sophomore standout Nicole Marinello, who missed the meet due to illness, the Wolverines fell short of a top-two team finish by less than two points. Novgrod called the team’s effort "fantastic."
Voorhees was West Potomac’s top performer. One year after qualifying for regionals on bars alone, Voorhees increased the difficulty of her performance and limited mistakes en route to a third-place finish in the all-around competition. Her top-four finish in the all-around automatically qualified Voorhees for regionals in all four events — vault, bars, beam and floor.
Along with eliminating many of the miscues she experienced last year, Voorhees’ smile revealed something else that had been removed: her braces. She was so happy to be rid of her metal mouth, Voorhees remembered the date she had the braces taken off: Dec. 2.
"I think it’s important to smile when you’re doing gymnastics," Voorhees said, "because it shows the judges that you’re having fun and that you like your routine and love the sport."
Voorhees posted a score of 35.25. Lee’s Leah Michetti won the all-around with a score of 37.05, followed by Lake Braddock’s Caitlin Liberatore (36.25). Lee’s Katie Stewart finished fourth (33.125).
Voorhees finished second on beam (8.65), third on floor (9.0) and fourth on vault (9.0) and bars (8.7).
"I’m really happy, except for my beam" performance, Voorhees said. "I fell on my mount and I felt I could have done better, but otherwise I’m really happy."
Novgrod said Voorhees recovered well during her beam performance.
"The silly little fall on her mount cost her five-tenths," the coach said. "Then, I was impressed the way she got up and made the whole rest of her routine solid. That’s [part of the] maturing process for her, [which] is really good."
Voorhees said her favorite event is floor. Novgrod said the sophomore has a chance to qualify for the state meet if she excels on the vault, which would include executing a Yurchenko Pike — a vault involving a roundoff onto the springboard and a back handspring prior to a flip off the horse.
West Potomac freshman Monica Thompson qualified for regionals on bar and beam. Thompson finished sixth on beam with a score of 8.35 and finished seventh on bars with a score of 8.25. Novgrod said Thompson qualifying for regionals in two events as a freshman will be "extremely good for her confidence in high school."
Lake Braddock won the district championship and Woodson finished second. The Northern Region meet will be held on Feb. 10 at Lake Braddock.