For the third consecutive year, the Londonderry High girls’ gymnastics squad strode proudly away from the state championship meet with a trophy in its grasp.
After winning the state crown by percentage points over the Pinkerton Academy Lady Astro powerhouse at the end of the 2015-16 season two winters ago, and then earning the runner-up plaque behind PA last winter, coach Heather Lennon’s Lady Lancers snagged the second place hardware once again at the 2017-18 title meet at the University of New Hampshire in Durham last Saturday, Feb. 10.
The Lady Astros tallied the top team score of 141.925 to comfortably outdistance Londonderry (136.7) and the third place team from Bedford High (135.125). In finishing first, the Pinkerton dynasty claimed its seventh state title since 2010 and its second in a row. All in all, that program has now won some 15 state championships.
But the Lady Lancers had no reasons to feel anything but proud of themselves, expecially in light of the fact that they were dealing with considerable adversity on the day of the big meet.
Three of the team’s athletes were hampered by the flu, and one – battle-tested stalwart Seana Kelly – had to perform one-handed after having her left hand bitten by a dog last week and needing stitches to close the wound.
“For as much depth as we have, the girls stepped up and did exactly what we needed them to,” said coach Lennon, herself a former Londonderry High gymnastics standout.
After three full event rotations, Londonderry trailed Pinkerton by a score of 105.05 to 101.225 in the team title hunt. But as the Lady Astros began their floor routines, coach Lennon knew that her squad’s chances of driving past PA were virtually non-existent.
“They’d need to fall down on every single routine, and that’s not going to happen because they’re always solid on floor,” said Lennon.
Londonderry’s highest individual finish came from standout Mira Kutney with her third place on the uneven bars (score of 8.3), and Ashley Griffin contributed a fourth place tie with Pinkerton’s Sophia Viger on vault. Maddie Croteau tied for sixth in that event with PA’s Ashley McKinnon, and Kutney was also good for a sixth on the balance beam.
“The girls did well, they’re all smiling, and we have lots of reasons to be happy,” said Lennon.
The LHS contingent, which also includes assistant coaches Emily Panacopoulos and Rachel Blais and athletes Courtney Baharian, Gianna DelViscovo, Janiah Bergendahl, Marissa McKay, Sophie Hagymas, Suzie Moore, Tara Nigro, and Tyla Kelley, qualified to take part in the 2017-18 New England Championships over in Derry at Pinkerton on March 10.
Even though they qualified to take part in that prestigious regional competition just one town over, coach Lennon has decided that her crew will not compete at that event.
“With the rule changes, it’s just not enough time for all the girls to completely change their routines,” she said. “Also, in my five years of coaching, someone always gets injured either at New Englands or during the practice before. Also, club states for New Hampshire are the weekend after, and their club coaches would kill me if they got hurt.”