Buford, North Oconee defend at GHSA gymnastics state championships


Credit: GHSA

Credit: GHSA

Budding dynasties are still alive after Buford and North Oconee successfully defended GHSA gymnastics championships Friday at Buford.

“It’s incredible for the girls,” said Buford head coach Tyler Ann Smith. “Especially because my team does not have a lot of club gymnasts. We have a few, but the core of my team is high school only girls.”

The victory in the Class 6A-7A finals marked Buford’s sixth overall and third-consecutive championship while North Oconee’s Class A-5A victory was the team’s fifth-consecutive state title.

Buford finished atop the Class 6A-7A team standings with a 110.25 total ahead of North Forsyth (110.025), West Forsyth (106.95) and Carrollton (106.575). North Oconee led the Class 1A-5A team standings with 112.625 points and led Bremen (109.575), Northgate (107.55) and Cambridge (107.35).

“There’s talent for sure,” Smith said of her team and North Oconee. “Especially when there are some of the club gyms in our back yard. But the alumni of our schools have laid the groundwork for both of our programs and that makes it easier.”

A core group of juniors has been paramount for Buford in the pursuit of four-consecutive titles. As freshman, the girls won a title and have done so in the ensuing seasons.

They haven’t learned how to lose. And don’t plan on it.

“Those girls have gone three years without losing,” Smith said. “And they are bound and determined to make it a fourth. They are Johanna Sasser, Kendall Rockwell, Vidya Bharadwaj and Bellarae Newby. A lot they do for me is self-motivation. There’s not a lot that I have to do to get them going. I might have to pivot their thinking a little bit, especially after our beam session today.”

In the balance beam, it’s said that falls are contagious, like a shank on the golf course. It’s a happening teams wish to avoid. But for the now three-time defending champions, the team weathered the dreaded occurrence. And not once, or twice.

Four times.

“We’ve never been there where all four went up and all four fall,” she said. “It was really important for us to not take (the bad vibes) to the floor routine. And those girls led the charge.”

Buford finished first in the bars and floor routines while 6A-7A runner-up North Forsyth finished at the top in the vault and beam competitions.

Both Buford and North Oconee have had streaky histories in the championships. The Wolves won the team’s first three championships from 2014-2016 while North Oconee won its first title in 2019 and hasn’t lost in a state championship since.

Forsyth Central’s Katie Andrews won the All-Around championship in Class 6A-7A after finishing atop bars and floor with a runner-up finish in the beam. Oconee County gymnast Hannah Aoki won the Class 1A-5A All-Around title with a first-place finish in the beam, a second-place finish in the bars and a third-place finish in the floor routine.

Follow the links to see the full individual results from Classes 6A-7A and Classes 1A-5A (TBA)

Class 6A-7A Team Results

Buford – 110.250

North Forsyth – 110.025

West Forsyth – 106.950

Carrollton – 106.575

Class 1A-5A Team Results

North Oconee – 112.625

Bremen – 109.575

Northgate – 107.55

Cambridge – 107.35