As the Class 2A gymnastics individual finals progressed, the crowd at the University of Minnesota Sports Pavilion was getting restless, waiting for that someone to step up and seize the moment.
While others tried, it was Bailey DuPay who succeeded. The Northfield sophomore sent a charge through the arena with a near-perfect floor exercise routine, earning a standing ovation with a score of 9.9, the best single-event score of the entire meet.
"When I saw the first 9.9, I couldn't believe it," the usually stoic DuPay gushed. "Then the other judges put up 9.9s and it hit home. It was an amazing feeling. I couldn't help myself. I had to celebrate a little."
Bursting with confidence, DuPay clinched the all-around championship on her final event, harnessing her emotions enough to score a 9.7 on the vault.
"I told her that she couldn't be too happy," said coach Melissa Bernhard, dousing the emotions of the moment with a bigger payoff in mind. "Luckily it was the vault, a power event where things can carry over."
Dupay finished with a score of 38.875, capturing event titles in the floor exercise (obviously) and the balance beam (9.55) in the process. Toss in the Class 1A diving championship she earned last fall and a strong argument could be made that the 5-foot-4 DuPay is Minnesota's best high school female athlete.
"She is the best athlete I've ever coached," assistant coach Paul Bernhard said. "She might be the best athlete in Northfield history."
DuPay did all this on a gimpy right leg that had been showing signs of a stress fracture, making her performance even more impressive and leaving observers to imagine what she could do in perfect health.
"I said at the start of the season that this would be my last in gymnastics. I was going to stick with swimming so I didn't get injured so much," DuPay said. "Now I'm not sure. I really love gymnastics. I don't know if I could leave."
Isis Muller of Roseville was second in the all-around with a 37.95. Kaylee Jondahl of Elk River took third with a 37.925 and won the vault with a 9.825. Roseville's Carly Wagner won the uneven bars with a score of 9.8.
1A: Austin's Fadness shines
Sela Fadness woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday morning, unable to sleep any longer. The Class 1A gymnastics state meet was still six hours away, but when your lifelong goal is that close, sleep can wait.
The diminutive Austin junior shook off her limited rest and performed almost flawlessly, winning state gymnastics' biggest prize, the all-around championship, with a personal-best score of 38.575.
"No way I could sleep," Fadness said. "This has always been my goal. I was ready to go."
Fadness won two individual events en route to the all-around title, taking first in the floor exercise (9.675) and the uneven bars (9.6), but it was an event she didn't win, the balance beam, that set the tone for her meet. Executing with barely a wobble, she scored a season-high 9.575 and finished second overall.
"I get most nervous on the balance beam, so when I got through that, I felt pretty comfortable," she said.
It wasn't that long ago -- December, actually -- that Fadness began to think that fate was conspiring against her.
Having finished as the floor exercise champion in last year's state meet, she went into this season on the short list of gymnasts with a realistic chance to win the all-around.
But a spate of frustrating injuries cropped up all at once, and doubt began to creep into her mind.
"I hurt both of my ankles and then, somehow, I developed a plantar wart on my hand," Fadness said. "I remember thinking, 'Really? Is this just not going to happen?' "
But her ankles healed, the wart was removed and her season took off.
"In my last three or four meets, I started to score over 38 [points] every time," Fadness said. "I felt like I was ready."
Grinning broadly and still a bit overwhelmed by her achievement, Fadness had a simple plan for her postmeet activities.
"I am going to sleep well tonight, that's for sure," she said.
Briquelle Bowden of Alexandria won the balance beam title with a score of 9.6 and finished second in the all-around at 37.95.
Bowden's Alexandria teammate Hannah Wendel took top honors in the vault with a score of 9.775, the meet's highest single-event score.