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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
One talented young lady may have competed for the last time.
The other one has established herself as one of the best in school history and still has one more year left.
And the last one is a bright young star whose career is just beginning.
Yes, the Hudson gymnastics team has certainly been fortunate to have senior Riley Skinner, junior Mackenzie Miller and freshman Maci Lori on its side.
Thanks to the smashing performances of this extraordinarily gifted trio, the Lady Explorers reached the Division I state meet for the fourth time in six years.
Hudson captured third with a score of 141.425 points at the Division I state competition Feb. 28 at Hilliard Bradley High School.
Brecksville-Broadview Heights won the meet with 144.625 points and Mentor took second with 141.475 points.
"We put everything together in the biggest meet of the year," Skinner said. "I was just so proud of the girls."
The three standout gymnasts also had a chance for individual glory. The individual competition took place March 1.
Miller, who has reached the state meet as an individual three times, finished 12th on bars with an 8.875 and 13th on the floor exercise with a 9.125. Skinner placed 15th on beam (8.825) and Lori finished 27th on bars (8.45).
But that part of the weekend was just icing on the cake. They already accomplished the much more important task.
It was especially satisfying since the Lady Explorers had to sweat it out at the district meet. Hudson grabbed the fifth and final spot at the West Geauga district meet the previous week.
"It definitely added to it," Mackenzie Miller said of the district competition. "We were definitely disappointed. It added motivation. We wanted to get back in the gym and try even harder."
Skinner, who is head coach Randi Chepke's daughter, felt a little bit better about herself during the individual competition.
After not performing as well as she would have liked in the team competition, the three-year state qualifier and two-time individual state qualifier made her last performance of her career a memorable one.
"I wish I didn't fall during the floor exercise [at the team competition Feb. 28], but I can't be mad," she said. "It was great to share this experience with my friends and teammates and my mom and coach."
Skinner led the way on beam with a score of 8.95 and also scored an 8.25 on floor during the team competition.
She finished 15th (8.825) on beam during the individual competition.
Mackenzie Miller led the Lady Explorers on vault (9.175), the floor exercise (9.075) and the uneven bars (8.975) during the team competition. She also scored an 8.875 on the balance beam.
She competed on vault for the first time in more than a month.
"I had a back injury, but I wanted to vault at states," Mackenzie Miller said. "I was really focused."
Lori, an all-around gymnast throughout the season, scored an 8.85 on beam, 8.8 on bars, 8.7 on vault and 8.675 on floor Feb. 28. She finished 27th on bars (8.45) during the individual competition.
Lori credits Skinner and fellow senior teammate Jordan Miller for her success.
"The seniors were so inspiring," Lori said. "I love them so much. They were always there to encourage us and give us pep talks."
Mackenzie Miller and Lori are looking forward to next season. Mackenzie Miller will have a chance to become a rare four-time individual state qualifier.
She credits former state qualifier Logan Custer, 2013 Hudson graduate, for much of her success.
"Logan and this year's seniors have helped me through the tough times," Mackenzie Miller said. "I'm definitely ready to take on that role."
Even though she's still an underclassman, Lori also plans to inspire and help lead her teammates.
"The seniors were great models," she said. "I want to follow in their footsteps."
As for Skinner, she will focus on the next chapter of her life. It won't be easy.
"My teammates are some of my best friends in the world," Skinner said. "They've always been there for me. They are the most genuine, nicest group of girls I've ever been around. I wouldn't trade them for anything."