E.A. Sports Today

They’re No. 1

NSG Saltos Xcel Gold gymnasts, Kaziah Williams ranked No. 1 in country after monster night in Hoover last week

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

As soon as Noma Meeker saw the number she knew it was something special.

The suspense built as each of her NSG Saltos gymnasts came off an apparatus at last week’s Elevate the Stage meet with one incredible score after another. Finally, the numbers were tallied and the result were enough to make you want to do a back flip.

It was better than good enough to win the meet. It was the best score in the land. Not just the land in Hoover. Or Alabama. The whole land. From sea to shining sea.

The Saltos’ score of 116.125 is currently the top all-around Xcel Gold score in the country. Let that sink in.

“It’s a big deal,” said Meeker, owner and head coach of Noma’s School of Gymnastics in Anniston, “because out West – California or even Texas – gymnastics is so intense. They don’t think a lot about Alabama or Tennessee.

“California is usually the winner because they have a tremendous amount of volume so therefore a tremendous amount of talent is accessible. We have to take what we get and train those kids to the best of their ability, and we get the job done.

“A 115 is a great score. A 115.5 is awesome. A 116.125 is almost unheard of.”

Meeker opened her gym at 19th and Wilmer in 1980 “to meet the need” of an underserved sports community. She started coaching the sport in 1970 at the Anniston YMCA at a time when there were only a couple clubs in the state and during her time there produced two Top 5 teams at the Y Nationals.

To produce the kind of score the Saltos did last week in Hoover a team has be on its game in every spot on every apparatus, and the Saltos were. They scored 28.725 on beam, 29.050 on bars and killed it on vault (29.025) and floor (29.325). Their vault score is currently second on their level nationally and the floor score is tied for fourth.

Kaziah Williams was especially sharp, posting an all-around score of 38.850 that is currently tied for the top individual score in the country with a girl from McKinney, Texas. She scored a 9.800 on floor and 9.700 on vault. Adriana Bonilla scored 38.225 overall and Samantha Wakefield scored 38.050.

Sophie Driskel, Bethan Stapler and Liya Wiesbrook all posted scores that put them in the national top 60.

“We hit that day,” Meeker said. “Every stick counts and we stuck our routines. We just performed well. Our execution was just excellent. It was contagious from event to event.

“By the end of the floor I was thinking, ‘Hey, we’re doing OK.’ When we went to the bars the kids were so pumped because they knew they had a good thing going. When we finished with bars and the judges were walking out, they just walked by me and said ‘They really looked good.’ It’s great to be told by an official you looked good.”

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