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.