From high-flying vaults to complex floor routines, daring bar maneuvers and inch-perfect balance beam flips, teams from across Georgia met at the Buford Arena for the GHSA state gymnastics championships.

The Buford gymnastics team took first place in the 6A-7A competition on Friday, April 22, with the highest overall team score. Its gymnasts also took first or second place finishes in each individual event.

“The meet was incredible,” said head coach Tyler Ann Smith. “I am really proud of how well the girls performed on each apparatus, but even more proud of how they supported other gymnasts in the arena.”

Buford gymnast Jillian Hynds competes on balance beam. Hynds scored a 9.25 in competition. Photo by Cecil Copeland.

According to Smith, Buford’s overall score of 113.9 was also the highest team score in any classification.

Although the gymnasts compete individually, it takes the efforts of each nominated team member to earn such a strong overall score. The state meet allows every team to put forward four competitors in each of the four events.

For the uneven bars, Buford sent Abby Hamilton (9.1), Kendall Rockwell (9.1), Jenae Larrazabal (9.4) and Marissa Ashton (9.7), who placed first.

Competing on the balance beam were Kendall Rockwell (9.05), Jillian Hynds (9.25), Lily Black (9.325) and Marissa Ashton (9.825), who earned second place.

Buford gymnast Vidya Bharadwaj competes on the vault. Bharadwaj scored a 9.1 on the apparatus. Photo by Cecil Copeland.

To perform their floor routines, Buford tapped Olivia Su (9.1), Marissa Ashton (9.65), who placed fourth, Lily Black (9.7), who placed third, and Bellarae Newby (9.75), who placed second.

On vault, the coaches called up Hailey Aycock (9.05), Vidya Bharadwaj (9.1), Lily Black (9.3) and Marissa Ashton (9.8), who finished in first place.

And while Smith is incredibly proud of the way her team performed, she also felt that some recognition should go to the community of supporters that showed up to cheer on the Buford gymnasts.

“The support we received from the community was crucial,” she said. “I saw some of the nerves setting in right before we went to compete in our first event … then the girls heard the crowd and saw the support in the stands, and you could see a weight being lifted from them.”

Smith also genuinely admires the sportsmanship and character her team exhibited during the state meet.

“For a while, Buford was placing 1-2-3, but then a gymnast from Carrollton had an amazing routine pushing everyone down a spot,” Smith said. “Without prompting, the entire team went to her to tell her how great she did. It was an amazing night!”

FEATURED PHOTO: The Buford High School gymnastics team took first place in the GHSA 6A-7A state competition held Friday, April 22, 2022, at the Buford Arena. Buford hosted all classifications within the state competition. Buford finished with an overall score of 113.9. Photo by Cecil Copeland. 

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