Talent, experience and depth.
Rival coaches aren't certain which trait is most prominent in the Severna Park girls gymnastics program,but most agree on one point: the Falcons enjoy a healthy advantage in all three.
Once again, the Falcons have their sights set on winning the county title this afternoon at Old Mill. They were victorious last year en route to the region-state championship and are strong favorites to repeat.
The top two finishers in the seven-team field advance to Thursday's region-state meet at Glenelg in Howard County. And Severna Park appears a shoo-in to make it.
Start with junior Tracie Miller, who Coach Bonnie Habicht says "usually scores fairly consistently in the 9s in all events."
Last month, Miller scored in three eventsto lead her Timonium-based club team, Rebounders, to a national championship in Indiana.
"I'm expecting that she's going to do well," Habicht said.
She won't be alone. Senior Jenny Banks won a region-state title on the balance beam as a freshman. Junior Beth Hoisington's best event is the bars, but "she gets good scores on the others, as well," Habicht said.
Severna Park also fields some talented freshmen, led by all-arounder Erin Winchell. "Her scores haven't been as competitive as the juniors and seniors, but she's been doing very well," Habicht said.
Habicht joked about her team's most serious ailment -- senioritis, which removed some valuable contributors from lastseason.
Arundel coach Carol Nutt only wishes graduation was all her Wildcats had to contend with.
"We're hurting right now. I have three girls who have casts or braces on their ankles, which makes it kind of tough," she said. "Some girls who never did some things before will be doing them now."
At least Nutt has sophomore all-arounder Debbie Chute and senior Karen Hickey, who scored a 9.1 on the bars at last month's Patriot Invitational at Old Mill.
"She has the best form I've seen in this county in years," Nutt said.
Before the slew of injuries, Nutt considered her team "solid across the board," with "a lot of specialists that do a couple of events each." She also saw the Wildcats as neck-and-neck with Old Mill in the battle for thelast spot in the region-state meet.
"I thought we might have a slight edge (over the Patriots), but with these injuries, I'm not sure how tough we can be," she said.
Upon hearing of Arundel's plight, Old Mill coach Jack Bliss said, "I'd like to think we have the edge now, but that's not the way I want to win. I'd rather win with everyone at full power."
The Patriots are just that, with senior all-arounder Caryn Sanders posing the greatest threat to Miller.
Sanders won the bars, balance beam and vault at the Patriot Invitational, which did not include Severna Park.
Stacy Sarna should give Old Mill a high bar score, and Amy Blougher could do likewise in the floor exercise. Katie Baker is strong on the beam, where she won a county title last season.
"If those four can hit," Bliss said, "weshould be in decent shape."
Another competitor who should fare well this afternoon is Meade's Molly Bell, who usually registers her highest scores in the vault and floor exercises.