After the conclusion of the Conference 6 gymnastics championship meet, Washington-Lee head coach Joe D’Emidio wrapped up an interview with a reporter as McLean coach Courtney Lesson approached.
“I want to say congratulations to McLean,” D’Emidio said. “They’ve been going after us for a couple years.”
After finishing runner-up to Washington-Lee at regionals each of the last two seasons, McLean finally finished ahead of the Generals with a championship on the line as the Highlanders captured the Conference 6 title on Monday night at McLean High School.
McLean finished with a score of 144.475, besting second-place Washington-Lee’s total of 140.925. Each team earned a berth in the 6A North region meet on Feb. 12 at Lake Braddock Secondary School.
“They always have a really great team,” Lesson said, “so it’s hard to compete against them.”
The Highlanders put on a strong performance on Feb. 3, led by junior Lizzy Brown-Kaiser, who placed second in the all-around. McLean posted the top team score in three of four events and finished second behind Washington-Lee on vault.
“We’ve never performed this well before,” Brown-Kaiser said. “This was definitely our best. We didn’t count a single fall for the entire competition. That’s a huge deal. Definitely a confidence booster and we’re all just so happy.”
Brown-Kaiser produced an all-around total of 37.025, finishing second to Fairfax junior Rachel Barborek.
“She did a great job,” Lesson said. “She’s really a team leader and she inspires a lot of the girls.”
Brown-Kaiser tied for second on vault (9.4), placed second on beam (9.425), finished third on bars (9) and took fourth on floor (9.15).
“I think we all really appreciate W-L as a strong competitor, but it feels really good to finally move past that and do what we’ve been striving for for several years,” Brown-Kaiser said. “… This was definitely the best meet I’ve ever had. … The girl who got first, Rachel, is an amazing gymnast, so I’m just glad that I even got so close to her.”
Brown-Kaiser wasn’t the only Highlander performing at a high level.
“I think we all really appreciate W-L as a strong competitor, but it feels really good to finally move past that and do what we’ve been striving for for several years.”
— McLean junior Lizzy Brown-Kaiser
Junior Jacqueline Green placed sixth in the all-around, qualifying for regionals with a score of 35.675. She placed seventh on floor (9.05), ninth on vault (9.05), tied for seventh on bars (8.6) and tied for 11th on beam (8.975).
McLean sophomore Nathalie Thomas finished first on floor with a score of 9.475 and freshman Calista Pardue took fifth (9.1).
Sophomore Delaney Gallagher placed fourth on bars (8.8).
“They did really well,” Lesson said about the Highlanders’ performance. “They hit lots of routines. Everyone stuck their beam routine. They did really great. The team spirit was there. They had each other’s backs.”
W-L twin sisters Sophie and Annie Hatcher each qualified for regionals in the all-around. Sophie Hatcher placed fourth with a score of 36.125. She finished second on floor (9.25), fourth on vault (9.375), tied four eight on beam (9.075) and finished 12th on bars (8.425).
Annie Hatcher placed fifth with a total of 35.825. She finished fourth on beam (9.225), tied for eighth on floor (8.95) and finished 14th on bars (8.2). She placed first on vault with a score of 9.45.
Two weeks prior, D’Emidio said Annie Hatcher was a potential state-title contender on vault after the senior won at the W-L Invitational.
“She’s right up there,” D’Emidio said Monday. “She’s coming along really well. … She took first on vault. This is one of the hardest conferences … so she has a good chance.”
W-L freshman Sylvia Shea’s all-around score of 34.875 fell just short of the regional qualifying score of 35. She placed sixth on vault (9.15) and bars (8.625).
W-L’s team score was a season best.
“We broke the 140 mark. We’ve been trying to hit that all year,” D’Emidio said. “We did it at the right time. … We did fantastic vaulting. We still have some more room to improve for regions and we’re going to shoot for [the region title].”
Fairfax’s Barborek won the all-around conference title with a score of 37.1. She placed first on bars (9.475), tied for second on vault (9.4), finished third on beam (9.275) and tied for eighth on floor (8.95).
“I’d like to go,” Barborek said, “all the way to states.”
Brown-Kaiser placed second in the all-around, followed by Yorktown freshman Juliette Mitrovich (36.2) and W-L’s Sophie Hatcher.
Yorktown placed third as a team with a score of 137.25. South Lakes finished fourth (121.425), followed by Fairfax (117.775), Hayfield (114.525), Langley (109.575) and Madison (106.55).
Mitrovich had a strong showing for Yorktown, placing fifth on vault (9.275), bars (8.65) and beam (9.2), and sixth on floor (9.075).
Teammate Sophie Zidlicky, a junior, placed seventh on vault (9.125) and freshman Olivia Zavrel tied for eighth on beam (9.075)
South Lakes’ Jasmine Shuey finished first on beam with a score of 9.55. The senior finished ninth in the all-around (34.075), including a third-place performance on floor (9.2).
Langley junior Natalie Volpicelli finished 14th in the all-around (31.85), including a 12th-place finish on vault (8.675) and a 13th-
place finish on bars (8.25).
Madison junior Julie Collier qualified for regionals on beam, placing sixth with a score of 9.175. She finished with an all-around total of 32.85, good for 13th place. Collier finished 12th on floor (8.55), tied for 17th on vault (8.45) and took 25th on bars (6.675).