HIGH SCHOOL GYMNASTICS: Permian hopes hosting Region III meet turns into needed boost

Permian’s boys and girls gymnastics teams know they don’t have another road trip this season.

The Panthers will be hosting the Region III and state meets this month with the former taking place today and tomorrow.

Compulsory events start at 4:30 p.m. today, with the optional portion commencing at 10 Saturday morning. The top three teams that meet a qualifying standard will earn a spot in the state meet on April 28 and 29, also at Permian.

Neither team enters the Region III meet having reached its full potential. Both Permian head gymnastics coaches — Chris Soto and Brandi Simmons — said this week that their teams haven’t hit their peaks yet.

“Each meet gives us something to get back in the gym and work harder for,” Simmons said. “Our biggest concern is the number of falls that we’ve been having on beam. If we can fix those and be a little more confident on that event, it will help us tremendously in our team score.”

Even on days where balance beam isn’t the only discipline where the Lady Panthers have trouble, they’ve been topping the qualifying score of 215.

The Permian girls enter the Region III meet with the third best qualifying score after district meets. Ahead of Permian are San Angelo Central — who finished in second place at the 2016 state meet — and El Paso Eastwood.

“It’s good for us, we need something to work for,” Simmons said about chasing those two schools. “That’s what we strive for is to trying to jump ahead of them if anything on a couple of events.”

 Preparation for raising scores and hitting their peak started for the Lady Panthers a while ago but zeroing in on the smaller tactical things has been more recent.

“We’ve been trying to get more consistent with our routines and have the mentality like (San Angelo Central) is not the only good team in this district or region,” Lady Panthers’ gymnast Joannaly Gonzalez said. “There are other teams above them that they’re fighting with. We have to get the mentality that it’s not that they’re better than us, it’s just that they’re routines are much cleaner.”

That’s been the main focus since the district meet two weeks ago — clean up the things that can bring up the Lady Panthers’ team score.

 The boys are working on something similar after the district meet. Even though the Panthers are the only ECISD team to lift a district trophy, Soto said a few instances still could have gone better.

“It made us realize where we were at,” Panthers’ junior Darryl Stephens said. “From then we really focused more on our practice and intensifying the practice to prepare us for regionals and state. We can always achieve better.”

Those faults at the district meet may have been a blessing in disguise for a Panthers team still looking for that signature performance of the season.

A year ago, the Panthers had their best meet of the season in January and could never find that magic again — ending with a seventh-place finish at the state meet when Soto feels his team could have challenged for the top five.

“Even with a few downfalls and adversities that they faced at the meet, they still came pretty close to hitting the score they wanted,” Soto said. “I have confidence they can do it.”

The competition only grows fiercer from here — and Soto is confident despite any mental fatigue that his team can rise to the occasion. 
“I think any player can tell you that right now we look good,” Soto said. “Going into the regional championship, I feel like their confidence is just snowballing. There’s a lot more at stake that we’re going to host the meet and they have a lot to prove.”