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Gymnasts place 4th at state meet

By FRANK ACETO Associate Sports Editor Published: March 8, 2017 12:00 AM
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One by one, the odds seemed to stack up against the Hudson gymnastics team.

The Lady Explorers didn't have enough depth.

They were inconsistent.

They were a total lost cause on vault.

And they always seemed to have a critical meltdown in one event.

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Fortunately, Hudson was able to overcome these headaches during the most important time of the season.

As a result, the Lady Explorers are among the elite again after a one-year hiatus.

Hudson finished fourth out of 12 teams with a season-high 139.9 points at the 2017 state competition March 3 at Hilliard Bradley High School.

Brecksville-Broadview Heights won its 14th consecutive state title with 147.15 points. Rocky River Magnificat took second with 146.075 points and Mentor placed third with 142.7 points.

The Lady Explorers, who have just seven athletes on their roster, grabbed the last qualifying spots at both the sectional and district meets last month.

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On this day, the Hudson gymnasts proved just how otherworldly they can be when they put everything together.

"We had six girls on each event and they count the top four scores," Lady Explorers' first-year head coach Megan Mertz said. "Technically, two girls can have bad days as long as the other four hit.

"That's what a good team does. If someone doesn't post a high score, someone else can pick her up. I felt like I was watching a team for the first time."

Hudson, which reached the state meet for the sixth time in eight years, scored 35.85 points on the floor exercise, 34.85 on the balance beam, 34.625 on vault and 34.575 on the uneven bars.

The Lady Explorers also showed they can turn disaster into something magical.

"On bars, [junior] Hannah Teed peeled in the middle of her routine and ended up flying off the bar," Mertz said. "When she flew off the bar, she did some crazy flip. She did a big-time skill on her flip and the judges gave her credit for it. She ended up having her highest score of the season."

Teed was the lone Hudson gymnast to factor in the team scoring on each event.

The Lady Explorers had some motivation heading into their final event, the beam.

"We were fifth at the time and we said, 'Let's go up at least one place,'" Mertz said. "All four girls hit. When they announced the teams and the fifth-place card went to Chardon, we went nuts."

Senior Macy Lori led Hudson with scores of 9.15 on the floor exercise and 9.075 on beam.

Freshman Julia Petty led the Lady Explorers with a score of 8.85 on bars and her older sister, Abby Petty, a junior, posted a team-high score of 8.75 on vault. Junior Jill Bevan contributed her highest score (8.975) of the season on the floor exercise.

Also competing for Hudson were sophomores Lina Ikhlef and Makayla Hudy.

"Lina was a lot more relaxed at the state meet," Mertz said. "Makayla has such beautiful beam and floor routines. She had her highest scores on both events."

Mertz knew her team had to stay healthy if it wanted to reach the state competition. With such low numbers, multiple injuries would have derailed the Lady Explorers' season.

Thankfully, other than Lori's back injury earlier in the winter, the Hudson gymnasts stayed healthy and did their best work when it mattered most.

"We don't have a big team, so we don't have the ability to pull somebody else when someone gets hurt," Mertz said. "The bonds the girls made together brought us closer as a team. If someone messed up, her teammate would walk up to her and say, 'We got you.' That was so encouraging to see."

Mertz fell in love with her team the moment she first met the girls. Her affection for them has only gotten stronger now that the season has been completed.

"They went to school dances together, they went bowling together and they watched movies together," Mertz said. "There was zero drama. It was so awesome to see everybody get along. Even though only one girl is leaving, I'm going to miss this team."

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