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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson head gymnastics coach Randi Chepke made it perfectly clear how she felt when it came to her team's matchup with a pair of Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division rivals Jan. 17.
"We wanted this one more than any other this season," she said.
Fortunately for the Lady Explorers, they got exactly what they wanted.
Hudson improved to 10-1 overall and 4-1 in the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division after posting wins over Strongsville and Medina Jan. 17 at Head Over Heels Gymnastics in Strongsville.
The Lady Explorers finished with 142.6 points. Strongsville scored 139.7 points and Medina finished with 133 points.
"This was a sweet victory," Chepke said. "I didn't think anything could top our Senior Night win of last week, but this one did.
"Knocking off two NOC opponents in one meet is a big boost to our confidence.
'They laid it all out there. They brought tears to my eyes."
The competition began on bars, which made Chepke a little nervous.
"For us, starting off on bars isn't the best place to set the tone of a meet," she said. "But the girls held steady and made no major mistakes.
"We were able to get out of the first rotation with a decent overall event score."
Macy Lori led the way with a third-place score of 9.2 and teammate Mackenzie Miller was right behind her in fourth (9).
Teghan Piper (8.9) and Jordan Miller (8.75) gave Hudson an extra boost by placing fifth and sixth, respectively.
"It was fitting that Macy led the way for us here," Chepke said. "She spent the past week focusing on the weaknesses in her routine.
"Well, she cleaned up her mistakes, pushed a little taller in her handstands and got us every 10th she could.
"It was nice to see Mac get her bar mojo back, too."
The Lady Explorers didn't take first or second on vault. But they certainly generated some crucial points on that apparatus because four Hudson gymnasts placed in the top seven.
Mackenzie Miller led the way with a third-place score of 9.
Jenni Spencer took fourth (8.85) and Lori captured sixth (8.8).
Katie Goosmann wasn't far behind in seventh (8.75).
"Our vault goal for the night was to have everybody flip two," Chepke said. "We went 11 out of 12 -- not perfect, but getting better all the time."
The meet was won on the final two events, according to Chepke.
"The second half of the meet was where we started to pull away," she said. "For the second week in a row, we rocked floor and beam.
"In fact, each of those event scores were off by less than a 10th and that consistency is exactly what we need this time of the season."
Mackenzie Miller took first (9.05) on the floor exercise and teammate Riley Skinner finished second (8.95). Spencer (8.8) and Lori (8.7) placed fifth and seventh, respectively, for the Lady Explorers.
"Our entire rotation on floor performed well, but it was obvious why Mac and Riley took the top two spots," Chepke said. "They both nailed bonus, hit their tumbling passes and really played to the judge and the crowd. Their routines were the best I've seen out of both of them so far this year."
Once again, Hudson's depth turned out to be too much for its opponents overcome on the beam.
This time, Megan Urbanic led the way with a second-place score of 9.25. Piper took third (9.2), Skinner finished fifth (8.8) and Jordan Miller placed seventh (8.6).
"We had another awesome turn on beam," Chepke said. "We stuck four out of six routines and hit big with Teghan and Megan. If we can continue to keep our mistakes on beam to a minimum, we'll be tough to beat here."
Mackenzie Miller led the Lady Explorers with an all-around score of 35.55. Lori took third (35.25) and Urbanic finished fifth (34.75).
The competition won't get any easier for Hudson.
The Lady Explorers are scheduled to compete at the Rock and Roll Invitational Jan. 25 at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School. The invitational is set to begin at 6:15 p.m.
"We'll see all the contenders for the state meet there," Chepke said.