CONNERSVILLE — A year ago, as a freshman, Cassie Zehr was just happy to be competing at sectional and may have surprised herself and her coach by advancing to regional. This year, with more confidence in herself, she approached this year’s competition expecting success.
As a result, she returned home as a sectional champion.
For the second consecutive year, Zehr (pictured at left) placed fourth in the all-around competition, this time bolstered by a first-place performance on the balance beam, qualifying her for Friday’s regional at Columbus East High School.
The beam, which has been Zehr’s strongest event all season, was the third apparatus she competed on at the meet. With a face showing her intense focus, the Pendleton Heights sophomore performed on the beam flawlessly, executing multiple jumps and layouts. She scored a 9.275, edging Taylor Burhans of Muncie Burris by .050 for the title and sending her back to Pendleton with a blue ribbon in hand.
“I am really happy about that,” she said. “I thought I would get close to the top on the beam, but to win it, I’m really happy.”
The improvement for Cassie in the event left her coach and father, Darrell Zehr, beaming with pride.
“When we came in last year, I didn’t think she could do it,” he said. “I’m just so proud of her. She’s really worked extremely hard and has added skills, even this year, that she needed to do. And her nerves stayed calm today. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Cassie opened her day with a strong 9.225 score on the vault. Her mark put her in a tie for fourth place with Lindsay Griffin of Richmond, who took the fourth-place spot on the strength of the tiebreaker. Darrell Zehr said the good start helped boost Cassie’s confidence and ease her nerves.
“She started off on the vault and I think she likes starting on the vault,” he said. “She did a great job and set a good score on that. Overall, I’m just really pleased how she kept her cool, even though I know she was really nervous.”
She completed her day with a 7.850 on the uneven bars, admittedly not a strong event for her, and an 8.425 in the floor exercise. The floor was the site of her only bobble of the day, a fall that cost her a half-point, likely resulting in her missing out on a third event podium appearance.
“The floor I practice on isn’t as bouncy as this one,” she said. “My timing was a little off, but that’s OK.”
Zehr will now focus on regional, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday. She will try to improve all her scores but will continue to focus on the beam, her strongest event. Like the sectional, the top-six in each event and the top-six all-around this time to the state meet.
“I might add a pass to my floor routine,” she said. “But I just want to perfect my beam routine and hit it a bunch this week.”
Darrell Zehr said regional will be challenging but is optimistic about Cassie’s chances.
“It would be great for her to go on to state,” he said. “It will be very difficult in the all-around at regional. But on the beam, that’s her best bet, and the vault, that kind of depends on what the other girls are doing.”