St. Paul’s of Covington made the most of its first trip with a full team to the LHSAA boys gymnastics state tournament.
The Wolves surged past defending champion Baton Rouge High and perennial contender Caddo Magnet of Shreveport, scoring 454.30 points to finish first at the meet held at the T.H. McCoin Athletic Complex on the former Lee High campus Friday.
Baton Rouge High finished second with 426.70 points and Caddo Magnet scored 370.80 for third place.
The championship trophy was only one of the benefits first-year St. Paul’s coach Ivan Paulouski saw for his team.
“I want them to have fun,” Paulouski said. “I don’t plan how we’ll do. If we win, it’s good. If we lose, we know what we need to be working on. I want them to enjoy gymnastics. Everybody did a great job today.”
The team scores are derived from totals in the two divisions of competition. Division II consists of Level 5 competitors who do compulsory routines. Division I is comprised of Level 10 competitors who perform optional routines.
Baton Rouge High won the Division II championship, edging Caddo Magnet 242.10 to 241.50. St. Paul’s was third with 227.40.
St. Paul’s picked up the points it needed to win the overall crown by winning Division I with 226.90 points. Baton Rouge High scored 184.60, and Caddo Magnet 129.30.
Hayden Ponjuan of Runnels was the Division II overall champion, edging out teammate William Golden 91.90 to 89.30. Ponjuan placed first in five of the six events.
“I did best on rings. I had a 15.8,” Ponjuan said. “That’s usually my best event. My weakest event is the pommel horse, but I had a 15.2, which is a good score for me.”
His 91.90 all-around was a personal record for Ponjuan, a sixth grader who began gymnastics at age 3 and who works out five days a week.
Other local Division I top-10 finishers in the all-around scoring were Brandon Harris
of Baton Rouge High (seventh), Todd Comeaux of Redemptorist (eighth) and John Hanley
of Baton Rouge High (ninth).
Neal Courter of Episcopal won the Division I all-around title with an 80.50 score.
Courter was followed by three St. Paul’s gymnasts, Colin Skinner (77.50), Brennan Skinner (76.60) and Evan McDonnel (72.80).
Courter was also the all-around champion in 2009 and 2011. He missed the 2010 meet after having surgery.
“St. Paul has some really good gymnasts. I compete with them in the USA Gymnastics program, so I knew what to expect. You just have to keep really clean sets,” he said.
“I was really happy with my high bar routine today. I was able to put it together, and I didn’t water down many skills. I was able to keep tight form and stick the dismount.”
Courter’s lowest finish was a fourth in the pommel horse with an 11.70.
“Pommel horse is definitely not my favorite,” he said.
You just have to work through it.”
Baton Rouge High received top-10 finishes from Patrick Thang (sixth), Sean Reliford (eighth) and Ryan Kjar
The girls state championship will be decided when action continues at 8:30 a.m. today.
There will be 114 girls competing. The breakdown: Division I (26 entrants), Division II (32) and Division III (51).
Five of the six individual winners from 2011 return for the girls tournament, led by LaKeitha Sims of Caddo Magnet, winner of the Division I all-around.
Girls Division III competition is Saturday with warm-ups at 8:30 a.m., competition at 10 a.m. and awards at 12:30 p.m.
Warm-ups for Divisions I and II begin at 1 p.m., followed by competition at 3 p.m. and awards around 5 p.m.