I was using F4 because I wanted to maximize DOF. I've found that I'm still struggling with getting focus spot on and getting better DOF helps solve that problem. I could have lowered ISO to address noise, but loose my DOF. But I guess you knew that.
I had 230 foot candles of light here so I was actually pretty well off from a lighting point of view. I can link you to the thread that explains a foot candle if you want it. Let's just say it translates to pretty good lighting for a gymnasium. To the naked eye it was marginally noticable, but my camera loved the extra light.
The F stop was the best crutch I had for my personal focusing issues. I relied on Neat Image to clean up the noise. Which introduced softness.
Fugfuggy, the camera certainly increases my opportunity for better images. I was able to walk 180 degrees in this venue to move just about anywhere I wanted which certainly helped with positioning. I also took your and others great advice and processed the images with faces before my favorite action shots. My hit rate is definitely up and I'd say the other thread paid off for me. I'd say 40/30/30 Lighting / Advice from the other thread / new camera contributing to the images.
2, 3, 4, 5 are my daughter. She was in first place AA by a high margin going into her final event - beam. Scoring season best or near season best on everything. Can you guess what happened next? She fell off the beam once and in doing so, fell into 9th place. If she hadn't fallen, she would have taken first soundly AND been AA champ. UGH. A friend of our's 5 year old daughter asked why she doesn't get a second chance like my daddy does when he bowls... too funny. She's been scoring well all season and been 1 or 2 all season and 1 fall sums up the season. We're pretty darned proud of her.
The beam went something like this: First girl in rotation did fine. Second wobbled like a weeble during her entire routine, third did likewise, then the girl before my daughter has a complete meltdown. Falls 2 times and doesn't dismount - she just hops off the end of the beam and starts crying - loudly. Of course all th rest of the girls to look at the commotion. My daughter falls, next girl falls, and last has her worst performance of the season. I swear there it's mass hypnosis - one falls or wobbles they all fall or wobble.
More than you wanted to know!