Burrell’s Taylor Johnson caps gymnastics career with WPIAL all-around gold

Saturday, February 17, 2018 | 8:57 PM

Burrell senior Taylor Johnson committed to run track at Washington & Jefferson a couple of weeks ago, but before turning her focus to running, she had some unfinished business to attend to in gymnastics.

Johnson wanted an elusive WPIAL gold medal in the all-around. With a near-perfect day on Saturday, her goal was met.

Johnson placed first in vault, bars and beam and second in floor to secure the all-around title in the advanced division in the individual finals at Moon.

Central Valley's Carolyn Grimm used a first-place finish on beam and a second on vault to win the all-around gold medal in intermediate I, and Moon's Thea Woolslare placed first in all-around in intermediate II.

Johnson, who finished second last year, closed her scholastic career in style with a 9.775 on vault, 9.625 on bars, a 9.55 on beam and a 9.75 on floor for a total of 38.7. She finished nearly two points better than Thomas Jefferson teammates Demi Kondos and Natalie Galioto, who tied for second. North Allegheny's Annie Haywood spoiled Johnson's bid for a sweep by placing first in floor.

“It's really exciting. I've been close, but this year I'm happy that I could finally win it,” Johnson said. “I felt pretty good about my vault. I have been doing more vault than I did last year. I had a bit of a rough warmup on bars, and my routine wasn't as good as I'd like it to be, but I still scored pretty well. I felt like I did one of my best routines on beam, and my floor routine was definitely by best one that I've done all year.”

Defending advanced division all-around champion Katrina Jones of Hampton did not participate because of an injury.

Johnson's floor routine got off to a strange start because her music didn't play, but once the issue was remedied she gave a performance that received resounding applause from the fans. Many of the competitors in other divisions were finished for the day, and they gathered around the mat to get a close-up view of the performance. Once Johnson was finished, her club teammates from Pittsburgh North Stars chanted, “That's our captain.”

“It's happened a lot where I've had to wait for the music, so I didn't really think of it,” Johnson said. “Everyone sitting around the mat and watching felt really good, and it made me excited to do my routine.”

Haywood went a few spots later and bested Johnson's 9.75 with a 9.8. Johnson said Haywood is one her best friends and the two hugged after their performances.

A night after celebrating a second consecutive team championship, Moon had a strong day in the individual final, which included Woolslare's all-around victory. In intermediate I. Katie Kopay placed second in all-around, and Leah Bookser was third. Jenna Puhalla won gold in with a 9.575, and Bookser took first in bars with a 9.1.

Woolslare, a freshman, had solid scores in each event. She placed fifth in bars and vault, sixth in floor and seventh in beam.

“It feels good to win, but last night was a little bigger because it was with my whole team,” Woolslare said. “Last year I was watching them, and now it feels great to be a part of a team that won a WPIAL championship.

“I fell during my beam routine, and I didn't think my floor was that good today, but it turned out to be OK. I was able to make up for it on my other events.”

Central Valley's Shelby Higgs won on bars in intermediate II and had third-place finishes in beam and floor. Montour's Haley Walters (beam), South Side Beaver's McKenna Wass (vault) and South Side Beaver's Hannah Magusiak (floor) won gold medals.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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