Worthy of Attention

Girls State Gymnastics

Most Kansans’ exposure to gymnastics comes once every four years during the Summer Olympics. However, it is essential to know that girls gymnastics has been a part of state high school sports since 1974. Boys competed for thirty years, starting in 1960. My personal experience is limited to coverage of a men’s Olympic team competition in Kansas City in the 90s.

Naturally, I was excited and honestly nervous covering the Girls State Gymnastics Championship on Saturday, October 23, at Shawnee Mission West High School. However, the event proved to be challenging, enlightening and very fun for me. Seeing these girls give everything they have to a sport they grew to love at a young age is the key to what I now cover.

An exciting aspect of the competition was the “cooperative agreement” where teams could train, practice, and compete as one until the state championship. The Olathe schools of East, North, Northwest, South, and West were all coached by Amanda Herington. Jessica Eddie led the coaching of Shawnee Mission East, South and West. Sara Hink guided North and Northwest. Such name play begs this classic movie buff to ponder whether that last grouping could be called Team North by Northwest? Anyway, Lawrence and Lawrence Free State were jointly coached by Katrina Farrow. Add in separatists Emporia and Newton, and the field was set.

The action came fast and furious with four rotations for the 14 teams inside the tightly packed high school gym. The teams worked through competition in the vault, uneven parallel bars, balance beam and floor exercise. Individual apparatus and all-around champions were crowned. The 2021 first-time team champion, Olathe North, proved that gymnastics certainly is worthy of more attention.

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Jeff Jacobsen has photographed practically every big event the sports world has to offer during a professional career that spans over 53 years. Jacobsen has seen things up close that only a diehard sports fan could in their dreams. His work for the Topeka Capital-Journal, Arizona Republic, Kansas Athletics, Inc., many national publications and now Action Images Photography, Inc., cemented his reputation as one of the nation’s finest sports photographers.

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