The fewer surprises Bonnie Habicht runs into, the better. And her Severna Park girls gymnastics team made a noticeably better showing in yesterday's county meet than it did a year ago.
Minus the controversy and last-minute injuries that contributed to their second-place finish last spring, the Falcons were victorious at Broadneck, outdistancing runner-up Arundel, 120.90-116.65. Chesapeake placed third with 113.45 points.
Severna Park and Arundel advance to next Wednesday's state-regional meet at Oakland Mills in Howard County.
Falcons senior Tracie Miller, who was pulled from last year's county meet when questions arose about her eligibility, won three of four events to take the all-around with a 36.80.
"She pushed us over the edge today," said Habicht, who lost Erin Winchell to a fractured left arm during the final practice rotation at last year's county meet.
"We were real nervous coming in because Old Mill, Arundel and Chesapeake have been getting such good scores and we knew they were out to get us."
Severna Park's Beth Hoisington, who took third in all-around at 32.55, said, "She helps coach our team and she adds a lot of incentive for us."
The defending state-regional champion in the all-around, Miller hasn't practiced much in recent weeks because of lower-back pain. Doctors have ruled out a stress fracture in her vertebrae, but still aren't sure what is causing the discomfort.
No matter. Miller wasn't about to miss another county competition, pain or no pain.
"I just didn't pay attention to it," she said.
Miller started strong, posting a 9.45 in the balance beam. She followed with a 8.65 on the vault that was exceeded only by the 8.75 of Meade senior Mollie Bell, who tied Old Mill's Caryn Sanders for the county all-around title last year.
Sanders has graduated, but Bell said she didn't feel like the favorite coming into the tournament -- "not with Tracie here."
Bell posted a 9.0 in the floor exercise, then sat out the next rotation as Miller scored a 9.3 to win the event.
Bell led the field in the uneven bars with an 8.05 -- until Miller ended her day with a 9.4. One of the first people to offer Miller a congratulatory hug was Bell, who took second in all-around at 33.6.
Team scores: Severna Park, 120.90; Arundel, 116.65; Chesapeake, 113.45; Old Mill, 109.05; Broadneck, 95.5; Annapolis, 82.05; Meade, 22.2
& Individual results All-around: Miller (SP), 36.80; Bell (Meade), 34.70; Hoisington 32.55.
Floor exercise: Miller (SP), 9.3; Bell (Meade), 9.0; Johnson (Ches), 8.7.
Balance beam: Miller (SP), 9.45; Bell (Meade), 8.9; Johnson (Ches), 8.25.
Vault: Bell (Meade), 8.75; Miller (SP), 8.65; Johnson (Ches), 8.1.
Uneven bars: Miller (SP), 9.4; Hoisington (SP), 8.1; Bell (Meade), 8.05.