In one of the tightest finishes in New Hampshire high school gymnastics championship history, the Lady Lancers finished up tremendously strong in the final event of the day – the floor exercise – and bested Pinkerton by mere percentage points to snag just the second state title in LHS girls’ gymnastics history. Londonderry has been the state runner-up five times.
Just about everybody who has paid serious attention to New Hampshire high school girls’ gymnastics this winter expected the two-time defending Pinkerton Academy Lady Astros to receive a decent challenge from the Londonderry High Lady Lancers at last weekend’s state championship meet, with the academy side eventually snagging its third straight title by tallying at least a few more points than Londonderry.
Well, after dropping two decisions to undefeated Pinkerton during the 2015-16 regular season, the Lady Lancers knew that was what most folks were thinking. But the Londonderry crew – which hosted the D-I title meet last Saturday, Feb. 13 – thought that it could best the defending state champs with the championship on the line, and the LHS bunch went out and did just that.
Londonderry – which collected its lone girls’ gymnastics title in 2004 with present coach Heather Tuden competing – tallied a team score of 137.800 to narrowly edge Pinkerton and its final score of 137.750.
“That’s one toe point,” lamented PA veteran coach Chelsie Burland.
Londonderry senior standout Jill McIntire paced the Lady Lancers’ effort by becoming the state champion in the floor exercise (with a new school record of 9.400) and the vaulting (9.225), finishing third in the all-around (35.225), and nabbing fourth on the balance beam (8.750).
McIntire didn’t hesitate to answer the question regarding most folks’ expectation that Pinkerton would win the state meet, with Londonderry putting forth a strong performance before ultimately losing.
“That was what a lot of people were thinking, but I think those of us on the team felt we had the talent and ability to come out and beat Pinkerton, and we were able to do it,” said McIntire, a superb athlete who will be going on to play women’s lacrosse at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.
Along with McIntire’s great work, the Lady Lancers received vital points from her fellow veteran Mira Kutney, who took second on floor (9.350), third on beam (8.975), and fourth on the uneven bars (8.200), as well as Maddy Croteau on vault (tied for fourth with a 9.000), Suzie Moore on floor (sixth with a 9.125), and Maddy Baumann (sixth with a 7.9).
Tuden, a key member of the 2004 title-winning LHS team and now a state title-winning coach as well – was absolutely thrilled with the clutch work of her charges in collecting the crown. The Lady Astros had won every state crown since 2010 but one.
“This is just surreal,” she said moments after a celebratory group hug with her gymnasts and assistant coaches Rachel Blais and Emily Panacopoulos. “I knew these girls had it in them, and I knew we could do this.”
Tuden and Mira Kutney were co-holders of the LHS girls’ program’s high score in the floor exercise of 9.35 before McIntire busted it that afternoon in helping her team to the narrow title win.
The Lady Lancers and PA gymnasts will get to face off one more time this winter, and that meeting will come at the New England Championship meet at Dracut (Mass.) High School on March 12. Until then, the Londonderry High gymnasts and their coaches will likely be walking on air.
Caption: Mira Kutney, left, and Jill McIntire were the top two finishers in the state with their floor exercises at Saturday’s title event. Photos by Chris Paul
Caption: For the first time since 2004, the Londonderry High girls’ gymnastics squad was able to gather with index fingers raised to celebrate a New Hampshire State title last Saturday, Feb. 13. The big win came in their own gym.