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Hand gymnastics claimed its third straight Class M state crown and 16th overall on Feb. 28 at Pomperaug by tallying 138.1 points. (Photo Courtesy of Kelly Smith )
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Every year, Hand gymnastics heads into the postseason on a mission to perform its best and ascend to the top. Once again, the Tigers’ determination and drive has paved their road to gold.
Hand competed in the Class M State Championship at Pomperaug on Feb. 28 and tallied 138.1 points to narrowly best runner-up New Milford (which scored 136.75) and earn the Tigers their 16th overall state title, plus a three-peat in Class M. Hand was tops in both vault and bars while placing second for the beam and floor.
“Coming into states, we were only separated from New Milford by .07 points and, throughout the whole meet, it was very close between us and New Milford, but when we got to our last event with the floor, [Head] Coach Kelly [Smith] told us to just have fun, do our best, keep it clean, and show it off,” said senior Abby McGuirk. “As a senior, it means so much to leave as Class M state champs once again and it means even more that I was able to help the team get here. My teammates have helped me overcome injuries and have helped to push me when I returned. I’m so proud of my teammates for this win because all of their hard work showed.”
McGuirk, who missed the earlier portion of the season with a foot injury, was Hand’s top all-around performer with a 36.9 on the day. She won the vault by posting a 9.375 and the floor with a 9.35 while only missing out on the beam crown by half a point at 8.9 and also came in second on bars with her total of 9.275—all scores that played a pivotal part in the Tigers taking the title.
“Winning states for a third year in a row is such an accomplishment. We have been working so hard this season to raise our scores in order to win this,” said senior co-captain Lauren LaChapelle. “Our team rose to the pressure and won. I couldn’t be more proud of my team and how far we’ve come this season.”
For the vault, Hand netted the meet’s best collective mark of 35.275 as joining McGuirk were freshman Erin Naclerio (8.9), junior Erin Maxwell (8.7), and sophomore Noelle Bergere (8.3).
Moving to bars, the Tigers prevailed with a 33.675 that was compiled by McGuirk, Naclerio (8.35), Maxwell (8.1), and sophomore Olivia Finke (7.95).
On the beam, Hand (33.825) was runner-up to Darien (33.85) with McGuirk, Naclerio (8.875), Maxwell (8.35), and junior co-captain Becca Anderson (7.7) leading the way.
For the floor exercise, the Tigers scored a 35.325 as a team and came in second to New Milford (35.6). Performing in this event for Hand were McGurik, alongside Maxwell (8.725), Anderson (8.4), and sophomore Lily Spencer (8.85).
For all-around totals, McGuirk’s 36.9 was complemented by solid scores from Naclerio (34.425) and Maxwell (33.9).
Coach Smith was pleased with how all her gymnasts performed at the meet while dealing with the expectations that come from winning multiple state titles.
“This win was really exciting. We knew heading in that it was going to be close and, sure enough, it was close the entire meet. We were ranked No. 1, although barely, and were defending champs so there was definitely some pressure on us,” said Smith. “Luckily, the girls really stepped up despite that pressure and we had great performances today. They had no idea who had won so it was exciting to watch the announcement at the end of the meet. To win three years in a row, especially this year, when we thought it was a bit of a rebuilding year, it’s quite an accomplishment.”
With their latest state championship now set in stone, the Tigers next prepare for the State Open that takes place on Saturday, March 7 in New Milford.
“Now, we’ll rematch New Milford again next weekend with Southington and Woodstock Academy at the State Open with the four teams going for three spots to the New England Championship,” said Smith. “Additionally, we have McGurik [all-around], Naclerio [all-around], Maxwell [vault], Spencer [on bars], and [junior] Genevieve Geller, Anderson, and Olivia Finke [beam] all competing for individual medals.”
Rounding out the Tigers’ state title club squad are juniors Nicole Farrales, and Meredith Ovian; sophomores Torrey Donoghue, Jacqueline Havran, Margaret Hayden, Sam Mayhew, and Abigail Walton; plus freshmen Marisa Padelli, Katherine Shaughnessy, and Delancy Skelly.
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