Mar. 11—LAPEL — Staring down the runway toward her first attempt at the vault, Lapel's Madi Carpenter had the confidence of knowing she could stick this particular landing, even though she had failed to do so previously.
Not in practice, not in competition, not even in the warm-ups ahead of this regional vault attempt had Carpenter been successful. In fact, she had only added it to her arsenal a few days earlier.
"She had been working on twisting this vault, and Thursday she put that on the floor for the first time at practice," Madi's mother and coach Misty Carpenter said. "She was not landing it, but she was determined that she was going to do that vault at regional. She warmed up a couple times and still didn't land it."
"I kind of knew that, even though I hadn't landed it, if I didn't put my big skills on the line, there's a good chance of me not making it (to state)," Madi said. "This is what I want to do. I don't really care if I landed this or not because I still had the vault that I normally do at competition."
The senior sprinted toward her opening apparatus and sprung off the vault toward the mats in the landing area.
The landing was perfect, eliciting a primal scream of joy and accomplishment from the competitor and a score of 9.600 from the judges.
"I just flipped it, had all my adrenaline going, and hit the landing," Madi recalled. "I'm pretty sure I was already screaming before my feet even touched the ground."
With the top six scorers from each event advancing to the state finals, the Carpenters felt good after one event Madi was headed to John Worthen Arena in Muncie the following week as the first Lapel gymnast to advance to the state finals.
"That was the highest vault score she has ever had," Misty said. "I knew that she could definitely do it. Anything that she sets her mind to, she can do it."
But she was far from done for the day.
Following an 8.375 on the uneven bars — a disappointing result that put advancing in the all-around in jeopardy — Madi knew she would finish with her two strongest events, the beam and floor exercise.
"I still knew the meet wasn't over. I still had my two strong events, and I knew I could hit them," Madi said. "I said it's not over and put everything into that beam routine."
Her beam performance resulted in a 9.850 from the judges for a second-place finish before she closed with a fourth-place 9.350 on the floor exercise.
With her placings, Madi had advanced to the state finals in three events, but there was still the matter of the six athletes who would advance in the all-around.
"After the bars and we were watching the other girls compete, I told my dad that I think I'd taken my grips off for the last time," Madi said. "Then, that (all-around) sixth place and they said my score first and not my name for the placing, and I had tears in my eyes. I was so shocked. My dad was like, 'Well, put your grips back on.'
"That was fine with me."
Aside from taking a year off as a freshman, Madi has been involved in gymnastics since accompanying Misty to Mommy and Me classes at 18 months old. Now, there is the satisfaction of knowing nearly 18 years of hard work has paid off.
"I can feel accomplished that I've done something, that I made it to state," Madi said. "I'm kind of making a name for myself in something that I've been working at forever."
After enjoying the accomplishment for a couple days — and being inducted into Lapel's Academic Hall of Fame — Madi returned to work, not wanting to settle for just advancing to the state finals.
Saturday at 1 p.m., she will sprint down that runway one more time.
"This is the last one. If I have a chance of winning this, it's go big or go home," Madi said.
Contact Rob Hunt at email@example.com or 765-640-4886.