'It just feels so good to finally do it': Fossum wipes away years of frustration, wins state all-around
JAMESTOWN — After helping her team capture a state championship, Dickinson High's Ayanna Fossum did not spend the night celebrating. Instead, the junior quickly cleaned up and hopped into bed in her hotel room on the eve of the biggest individual competition of her high school career.
Over the past two seasons, Fossum has been on a cusp of a state all-around crown only to see it slip through her fingers. In 2017, she finished in the runner-up spot, just one-tenth of a point behind Bismarck High's Julia Red Wing. One year later, Red Wing won again, while Fossum had to settle for third.
Entering the 2019 State Gymnastics Individual Meet, Fossum woke up well-rested and relaxed on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 23. Later in the afternoon, she captured her first state all-around championship from the Jerry Meyer Arena at Jamestown High School.
"I've worked so hard the past three years and every single year, I've choked it at state," Fossum said. "I just told myself coming into the meet to have fun, relax. I know how to do everything, I just have to do it, and then I would come out on top. It just feels so good to finally do it."
Winning the meet with a score of 37.917, Fossum successfully defended her floor championship, taking the event for the third straight year with a 9.683. Also, she added a state vault title to her resume after producing a mark of 9.567.
"As far as what got her over the hump, I don't know," Dickinson head coach Kent Van Ells said, "but once she got rolling, she was pretty determined."
Fossum becomes the fifth different Midget to be a state all-around champion, and the first since her older sister, Acacia won five from 2011-2016.
"I've always looked up to her," Ayanna said of Acacia. "While I was little, I was in the stands thinking, 'I can't wait till I'm older and maybe I can get that all-around.' It feels so good that we've both done that and I could keep her legacy going."
The junior's journey to gold began on the beam, an event that's been an obstacle in the past. Last year, Fossum fell during her routine, and during team competition this year, she did the same. Unable to complete an aerial one night earlier, she got through the potential roadblock with zero issues on Saturday.
"Before beam, I was just so nervous," Ayanna Fossum said. "I just told myself, 'You've worked so hard all year, to choke under pressure, I wasn't going to do it.' I just stayed calm, did what I always do at practice ... When I finished that beam routine, there was so much relief, it was so awesome."
Going on to complete championship performances on the floor and vault, Fossum only had the balance beam to go before the title was all hers. Prior to earning a score of 9.3 on that event, the junior and her excitement almost became too much to handle.
"I was pacing around all day and it kind of just helps to take deep breaths. I have so much adrenaline, which isn't that great at some points," Fossum said. "If I just take some deep breaths and say, 'It's going to be OK, if you get nervous, that's when you do bad.' I just had to relax, act like I was in practice and calm my nerves."
With a score of 37.433, Demons junior Kate Dillman earned runner-up. Jamestown sophomore Rachel Schiele and freshman Haley Nelson were separated by 0.001, with Schiele taking third and Nelson one spot behind.
"It's really an honor that we got to do it here in front of our home crowd," Schiele said. "There were just so many people to support you throughout the whole (meet)."
Schiele won a state title on the uneven bars, two years after becoming a champion on beam. This year, that distinction went to Nelson, who was victorious in comeback fashion.
After falling on bars, Nelson tore off her wrist tape in a huff and marched out of the gymnasium to compose herself. On the day's final rotation, the freshman recovered by winning the beam with a score of 9.467.
"I just thought that you can't let one event get you down when you have more to go," Nelson said. "You just got to keep going, no matter what happens."
The emotions were also on display for Dickinson seniors Meghan Ackerman and Dacia Rambousek. When Ackerman landed her dismount on the bars to complete her career, the two were locked together for a long and tearful hug. Key contributors to five state team championships, the duo's gymnastics run with the Midgets has ended.
When the day reached its conclusion, Ackerman and Rambousek savored the moment with the other Class of 2019 gymnasts at the meet, taking photos on the floor mat.
"It's just so emotional," said Rambousek, who was named Senior Athlete of the Year. "I don't know all of them as well as I wish I could, but we all share something in common, which is our last meet being here. We all did really well and loved every minute of it, and that's all I could ask for."
N.D. High School State Gymnastics Individual Competition
At Jamestown High School
All around: 1, Ayanna Fossum, Dickinson, 37.917. 2, Kate Dillman, Bismarck High, 37.433. 3, Rachel Schiele, Jamestown, 37.051. 4, Haley Nelson, J, 37.05. 5, Alex Baer, Fargo Davies, 37.0. 10, Amy Fridley, D, 36.284. 11, Dacia Rambousek, D, 36.234. 12, Brooklyn Deguzman, D, 36.2. 14, Meghan Ackerman, D, 35.684.
Vault: 1, Fossum, D, 9.567. 2, Dillman, BH, 9.483. 3, Madison Deics, Bismarck Legacy, 9.467. 4, Bella Price, Minot, 9.45. 5, Jocey Kriewald, Valley City, 9.383. T6, Rambousek, D, 9.367. 8, Brinklyn Schumacher, D, 9.35. T9, Fridley, D, 9.3. T12, Ackerman, D, 9.233. T15, Deguzman, D, 9.15.
Uneven bars: 1, Schiele, J, 9.367. 2, Fossum, D, 9.3. T3, Dillman, BH, 9.15. 4, Elicca Stugelmeyer, BL, 9.15. 5, Baer, FD, 9.133. 7, Ackerman, D, 9.067. T11, Schumacher, D, 8.917. T13, Rambousek, D, 8.867.
Balance beam: 1, Nelson, J, 9.467. 2, Fossum, D, 9.367. 3, Addison Fitterer, D, 9.35. 4, Dillman, BH, 9.267. 5, Schiele, J, 9.167. 6, Deguzman, D, 9.15. 7, Fridley, D, 9.05. 9, Rambousek, D, 9.0. T14, Ackerman, D, 8.717.
Floor exercise: 1, Fossum, D, 9.683. 2, Price, Mi., 9.667. 3, Sydnee Spivey, Grand Forks, 9.633. 4, Schiele, J, 9.567. 5, Dillman, BH, 9.533.