The shrinking sport of high school gymnastics in Maryland had a moment of glory last night.
No longer is there a state championship meet, now that Howard County and Montgomery County have dropped gymnastics as a varsity sport. Arundel won the final state title last year, edging Quince Orchard of Montgomery County.
This season, six teams in Anne Arundel County -- Annapolis, Arundel, Broadneck, Chesapeake, Old Mill and Severna Park -- have carried the state's varsity gymnastics banner alone.
And carry it defending champion Arundel did, winning the title with 130.7 points in the girls season-ending county championship meet at Chesapeake. Old Mill was second with 128.75, followed by Chesapeake with 123.3.
The boys championships will be conducted at Arundel at 5 p.m. tomorrow.
It was the eighth title for Arundel since the sport was put on the varsity agenda in 1976. The only other schools that have won are Old Mill (nine) and Severna Park (two).
Although Arundel finished the regular season with a 13-0 record and beat Old Mill twice, Wildcats coach Carol Nutt did not arrive at Chesapeake expecting a cakewalk.
"We realize Old Mill is strong," Nutt said before the meet. "One of the times that we beat Old Mill, they were weakened by injuries. If we have our normal good meet, we'll be fine."
Chesapeake? "They have a solid team, but they'd have to career it to win," Nutt said. "Or Arundel and Old Mill have to get into trouble."
Chesapeake didn't career it and Arundel and Old Mill didn't get into trouble. Form held.
As expected, the battle for the all-around title centered on sophomores Karen Newhard of Arundel and Holly Firebaugh of Old Mill. Newhard, second last year, unseated defending champion Firebaugh, 36.45 to 35.45. Kim Johnson of Chesapeake was third at 34.5.
"Our first event, the balance beam, is difficult to perform under pressure, but we scored well [32.95] even though the kids were nervous and had to open with it," Nutt said. "That set the tone. Miss your footing on the beam and it can cost you a half-point. That's a lot when the scoring is in tenths.
"The uneven bars are our weakest event, but we had our highest score of the season [31.2]. Our second, third and fourth finishers scored high."
Newhard was Arundel's top finisher in the uneven bars despite missing a move. She covered up nicely, but still didn't score as well as usual.
"She stayed poised and focused despite distractions," Nutt said. "She's a consistent performer who doesn't waver. She's a small kid, but tough."
Newhard won the vault, balance beam and floor exercise, finishing second to Firebaugh in the bars. In each of the two dual meets, she edged Firebaugh by a point or two.
"Holly and I are friends, and beating her wasn't what this meet was about," Newhard said. "I wanted the team to do well. It did; this was our best meet of the season."