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Heckaman makes state finals in dramatic fashion

Heckaman reactsBy Rudy Marquez

Thanks to our partners at the Pilot News

HUNTINGTON — To say it was a roller coaster of a day for PHS gymnasts would be an understatement.
Competing at the regional at Huntington North on Saturday, the meet had several lows but ended on a high as senior Kyla Heckaman qualified for the state finals on the balance beam.
Plymouth started out on the floor exercise with Kasi Harner leading off with a solid routine. Then things started to go wrong. Dorothy Karris was next up, but shortly into her performance, the music to her routine stopped. Karris was determined to keep going, and eventually, her music returned, but the flow of her routine was thrown off. After consultation with officials, it was decided Karris would get another opportunity at the end of the Plymouth rotation.
Tessa Hutchinson came on next for the Pilgrims. Hutchinson started off strong, but during her second tumbling pass, she hyper extended her knees. Somehow Hutchinson managed to complete her routine
“It was straight-up adrenaline, she has no idea how she did it” according to head coach Mandy Bender
Kyla Heckaman was next and performed a strong routine, but any shot of advancing to state on the floor was dashed by a relatively low score for the senior standout. Finally, Karris was able to perform her routine again to finish the first rotation for the Plymouth gymnasts.
The second rotation for PHS took them to the vault, where they were now short one gymnast with Hutchinson out with a knee injury. Jayla Mitchell led off for the Pilgrims in the only event she was scheduled to compete on, followed by Karris and Heckaman.
Mitchell stepped in to replace the injured Hutchinson in the event and gained some valuable experience in the emergency backup role. Kasi Harner improved on her sectional bars score by over one point. Karris had a solid bars routine, and Heckaman managed to post the team-high score despite an uncharacteristic slip and fall.
Finally, the last rotation brought the PHS gymnasts to the balance beam, which has been their strongest event all season.
All eyes were on Kyla Heckaman as she attempted to make it to the state finals on what has been her best event for her high school career. Heckaman still had her ankle wrapped due to an injury suffered four weeks ago, but despite it, she battled through with a clean, no fall routine. She was visibly happy and relieved when she was done, but it was still up to the judges and their scores.
Heckaman’s score of 8.625 matched the score of three other gymnasts for the fifth-best score. By rule, the chief judge’s score is used to break the tie and award one gymnast fifth place outright.
The other gymnasts would get sixth place regardless of how many there are and that tie is not broken. However, Heckaman was mistakenly left out of the sixth-place tie and her name was not called to the podium for awards.
The mistake would not be corrected until the meet was long over. The chief judge had to be reached to correct the mistake and apply the rule properly.
Coach Mandy Bender got the call about an hour after the meet that Kyla Heckaman had officially qualified for the state finals, which will take place on Saturday in Muncie at Ball State’s Worthen Arena.
Overall, Coach Bender was happy with the effort of her team. All of them except Heckaman were competing in the regional for the first time.
“Kasi I thought had a really great meet. Dorothy I thought did okay with kind of a mess up on floor with her music and everything, kind of started off the day a little rough,” said Bender. “So she had to do it twice, which hurt her a little bit, got her kind of down about the rest of it, but I thought bars looked really great for her, and for the most part beam looked pretty solid besides that fall. But I got to really chalk it up to MVP of the day is Jayla.
“She stepped in there, didn’t warm up at all except for vault which she knew she was competing,” said Bender. ” She competed a kip on bars for the first time, got a new skill. Had a PR (personal record) on beam even with a fall. The girl’s never done gymnastics before in her life. To start out this year and be competing at regionals, she had a heck of a day for herself. Obviously, Kyla had a great day. She did everything she could.”