Texas High School Gymnastics State Championships is big time! It’s a must see. We have been talking about it all year. There is something about Texas and sports that just has the right mix. Having spent a few years living there, you would understand what I am talking about. Texans take their sports seriously, especially gymnastics, on every level. Over the last two decades gymnasts from Texas have thrived and become Olympians. Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin, Sean Townsend, Chris Brooks, Raj Bhavsar, Jonathan Horton, and Simone Biles are to name a few. Some of the most competitive gymnastics clubs in the country are in Texas. But underneath all of the super stars and the Olympic gold medals is a growing and exciting culture of Texas High School Gymnastics.
As I walked into Rockwall-Heath high school in Heath, TX the end of April, I could feel a buzz in the gym. That feeling you get when state titles are on the line. For the men’s division, the number one ranked team all season was Saginaw High and were the favorites heading into day one, the compulsory competition. Standing in the way were the defending 2016 and 2017 State Champions Bryan Rudder, who should never be counted out of any meet, especially in the postseason. The dark horse was the second ranked team in the state, Kingwood. They had been competing well all season and have solid all-arounders on their team.
Through the first day of competition I was amazed by the energy level from the teams and the fans. But coaches and other media kept telling me to wait until you experience day two, team finals. The energy is even better. A week earlier in Chicago I witnessed the Oklahoma Men’s Gymnastics team capture their fourth straight national championship. It was one of the most exciting collegiate competitions in recent history. Could team finals for Texas High School State Championships be just as exciting as NCAA’s?
“Today state championships begins and is one of the greatest teams sports in the U.S. In the United States, there are not too many gymnastic team sports around – the Olympic Games, NCAA’s, and Texas High School. It’s awesome!” said Mark Sherman President of the Texas High School Gymnastics Coaches Association.
After day one, Saginaw High jumped out ahead posting a 175.850. Kingwood and Permian rounded out the top three with scores of 175.650 and 174.100 respectively. Christopher Kuzmickas from Kingwood took the lead in the All-Around standings with a 58.900, followed by teammate Zech Wittenberg with a 58.750. Finishing third was Adam Elahmadi from Highland Park scoring a 58.700.
During the onset of team finals, the top 12 high school teams in the state of Texas were fired up. You could tell early on in the first few rotations how much this meet meant to them; every routine, every landing mattered. Saginaw was on a roll right from the start. Their spirits were high and they were ready to do what they been doing all season, hit routines. Kingwood stayed in contention throughout with gritty sets from Kuzmickas and Whittenburg.
Rockwall High, one of the largest teams in the state, made their presence know during their high bar rotation when they stuck five of six dismounts and fans went crazy. In the end, Saginaw High was better than everyone else and won the 2018 Texas State Championship. Head coach Briley put his team in the best position to hit routines and they rose to the occasion with the state title on the line.
“It’s been such a long road. 2012 we won, 2013 we won, 2014 we placed 2nd, 2016 we were 2nd, 2017 we got third. We have been trying to climb. We won the State Championship!” said the 2018 Texas High School Gymnastics coach of the year. When asked at what point did Saginaw High gain the momentum? Coach Briley said, “I had two guys who stuck the best vaults of their lives. The third guy nailed the hardest vault that you can do in high school. Vault was an exciting factor.” Yohan N’Ganza, Saginaw High Senior, who had many clutch routines throughout the weekend, said “I feel amazing. Four years with these amazing people. We worked our butts off, I can’t imagine anyone else being here with us.“
Kingwood placed second after finishing up the meet strong on floor. “I think it was as expected, it was a fantastic competition. My guys fought really really hard, but at the end of the two days, it is the same team that beat us all year and I want to congratulate to Saginaw High,” said Justin James, Kingwood High School head coach. “It was a great fight. It all came down to the final day and the last few events. It was an awesome competition!”
Christopher Kuzmickas, from Kingwood, won the Texas High School Gymnastics All-Around title and is looking forward to competing on the collegiate level next year. “All that work finally paid off after spending all that time and work in the gym. I’m stoked, that’s all I can say. It was a blessing competing with this team. I’m planning on going to OU. The club route. From there, I got to go to work.”