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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
They finished with their best score of the season.
They also had two individual champions and three top-five finishes in three events and in the all-around competition.
And best of all, you can now call them sectional champs.
Not a bad day for the Lady Explorers, huh?
The Hudson gymnastics team won a Division I sectional title with 141.025 points Feb. 17 at West Geauga High School in Chesterland.
As a result, the Lady Explorers advanced to a district meet, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 23 at Riverside High School in Painesville. The competition is set to begin at 10 a.m.
"I can't say enough about what the girls accomplished here," Hudson head coach Randi Chepke said. "They battled for every 10th and pulled out the big win. It's a great way to start the postseason -- a real confidence booster. We asked the girls to give it their all and that's exactly what they did.
"We had a couple of falls. We always expect a few, but overall, the team effort is right where we'd hoped it would be at this time of the year."
Also qualifying for the district competition were Mentor (133.225), Stow-Munroe Falls (130.4) and Chagrin Falls Kenston (129.3).
Mackenzie Miller led the Lady Explorers after placing first in the all-around competition with a score of 36.2. Miller and Teghan Piper, who finished fifth in the all-around scoring (35.375), qualified for a district meet in every event.
The top 12 performers in each event qualified for the district competition.
Miller took second on the floor exercise (9.275) and vault (9.025), third on the balance beam (9.275) and fourth on the uneven bars (8.625).
"Mackenzie rocked the house," Chepke said. "She had season highs on floor, beam and in the all-around. She's a beautiful gymnast, has graceful dance, stunning lines and a new-found determination to be the best she can be. Her confidence has grown by leaps and bounds and it's awesome to see her peeking at just the right time."
Piper finished fourth on the beam (9.175), fifth on the uneven bars (8.6), sixth on the floor exercise (9) and 11th on vault (8.6).
"Teghan didn't hold anything back ," Chepke said. "She fell on her dismount off bars, but the rest of the routine was so solid that she still managed to place in the top 10.
"And she finally found her footing on the balance beam. Teghan's a spitfire though, so figuring out how to control all that energy has taken her a bit of time. She paid attention to the details at this meet and it showed in her all-around score."
Custer advanced to the district competition in every event except for vault. She placed fourth in the all-around scoring (35.65) and took first in the floor exercise (9.35). She also finished second on both beam (9.35) and the uneven bars (8.725).
"Logan stole the show with her floor routine," Chepke said. "She has been a standout on this event each and every meet and we don't expect that to change during these last few crucial competitions.
"It's hard not to sound too boastful about this kid. She's solid on every event and really steps up and delivers under the most intense pressure. She is the go-to girl. Need a big number? She's going to give it to you. She brings so much to the table -- confidence, a sense of calm. I can't wait to see how far she goes."
Also advancing for Hudson were freshmen Jenni Spencer, who placed ninth on vault (8.65), and Riley Skinner, who finished 11th on beam (8.55).
"Jenni is a powerful vaulter with big potential and it will be interesting to see how she stacks up next week against the vaulting powerhouses we'll see there," Chepke said. "Riley, who has been a top performer on beam for us all season, faltered in her tumbling pass, but still managed to live to fight another day. I'm confident she'll come back next week with a stick."
As usual, Hudson put up big scores on beam and the floor exercise.
"By far, our team's best events overall were beam and floor," Chepke said. "We posted our biggest team score on both at this meet. They've been our strengths all season, but we took it to a whole new level.
"I'm especially pleased with our beam performances. Despite falls out of our first three competitors here, each of those girls went after their routines with gusto. They went down hard and they went down fighting. You can't be disappointed in that.
The top five teams and top 17 individuals in each event advance to the state meet. The Lady Explorers are seeking their third trip to the state meet in the last four years.
"It only gets tougher from here," Chepke said. "These girls have proven they've got the goods. Now they have to believe and deliver."