Dwenger steps up to hold onto gymnastics regional Carroll and Homestead also advance to state meet.

Finally, the Huntington North Regional produced the girls gymnastics meet fans have been waiting for all season, though the results turned out the same.

Halfway through the meet, No. 6-ranked Bishop Dwenger had a 54.85 score, but No. 9 Homestead was right there with a 54.7 and No. 12 Carroll had a 54.525. For the first time in a long time, the Saints had a legitimate challenge to face as they tried to win the title for the seventh year in a row and 17th time in the last 18 years.

Except the extra pressure never caused them to waver, slip or miss a mark, pulling away to score a 111.275 while Carroll finished second with a 108.625 and Homestead a 108.050. All three teams advance to next Saturday’s state meet at Ball State along with the top six individuals in each event. Concordia’s E’Lycia Early and DeKalb’s Shiloh Miller advanced in the vault.

This was a great tune-up for the state meet because the competition was so good and the judging so tight. Everyone had to raise their level, and even though the scores were slightly lower from the sectionals, the performances might have been better overall because of the stricter judging.

“Our main focus for tonight was to clean up from sectionals and take care of the nit-picky stuff,” Bishop Dwenger senior Amy Weilbaker said. “We performed our best at sectionals and this week we wanted to do that and maybe even go a little better.”

Weilbacker won the vault and the floor exercise, while teammate Elaine Cornewell took the balance beam and Homestead’s Catherine Milne won the bars title. Cornewell won the all-around with Milne finishing second and Carroll freshman McKinley Carroll third. Bishop Dwenger’s Sophia Wright-Turflinger was fourth, Homestead’s Olivia Cronenwett fifth and Elkhart Central’s Analena Vanderzwaag sixth.

Elkhart Central came in as the main threat to the three dominant Fort Wayne teams, but Blazers’ leader Abi Downs suffered a severe knee injury in the sectional. Elkhart Central still finished fourth with a 105.225 score.

“I thought the girls did awesome today, very confident,” Saints coach Rose Nix said.

The Saints seem to be peaking at the right time as Wright-Turflinger, Rachel Landstoffer, Jenna Farris, Libby Tippmann, Cornewell and Weilbaker are putting together their best routines of the season.

“We’re definitely getting more consistent in meets,” Cornewell said. “As we’re getting higher scores, we’re getting ore confidence. When you score higher, you have more confidence in your skills and we just push ourselves harder at every meet and then in practice to do better the next week.”

They also got a push from Carroll and Homestead who might make some news next week as well. The Chargers got very strong performances from Shearer, McKinley and Jillian Hoffmann, while the Spartans were led by Milne, Cronenwett and Katelynn Chaffee.

“I thought the girls really hung in there and it might not be the best routines they’ve ever done, but they did really go job of staying consistent, and what more could you ask?” Carroll coach Rosemary Scheele said.

The Chargers showed big improvement on the balance beam, going without falls for the first time all season. The Spartans also performed very well on the team.

“They definitely brought something tonight that I knew they had in them all along,” Homestead coach Jodi Hardwick said. “They wanted this so bad. I think they can do even better at state.” <br>

<i> For more on gymnastics, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring. </i>