MEDINA — Samantha Borrelli and Kira Palmer are only sophomores, but they have become the engine that is driving Medina’s gymnastics team.
They did so again Saturday at the Rich Clevidence Invitational, combining for six medals as the Bees earned a third-place finish (135.45) behind defending state champion Brecksville (143.55) and Northeast Ohio Conference rival Hudson (139.65).
Borrelli finished third in the all-around, fourth in the floor exercise, fifth on the uneven parallel bars and sixth on the vault, while Palmer won the title on the balance beam and was fifth in the all-around.
“Third place is good for us, especially with Brecksville and all of the other good teams that came here today,” Borrelli said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries this year, but everyone is coming around now.
“We all know if we work as a team, we’re always going to come out strong.”
Borrelli scored 35.25 in the all-around, where she won a tiebreaker for third place over Hudson’s Logan Custer in the meet that included 12 full teams and three partial squads.
The top two spots went to Mackenzie Miller of the Explorers (35.4) and North Olmsted’s Quinn Kacirek (35.3) — beginning a four-way rivalry that likely will continue through the state meet.
“I need to work on my consistency a little more, but I’m right on track with where I wanted to be,” said Borrelli, a state qualifier and All-Gazette honoree as a freshman. “This meet was another little step toward my ultimate goal, and the ultimate goal of our team, so I’m happy with it.”
Palmer excelled on the beam with a Medina County season-high score of 9.2, which was a whopping 0.35 above her previous best. Custer (9.0) was second, while Kacirek (8.9) finished third.
“This gives me a great confidence boost because I’ve been working really hard for two years on my beam,” said Palmer, who gained All-Gazette honors in 2011-12. “I’m still putting in bigger skills, so I know I still have room for improvement, but this was great today.”
Palmer also shattered her career high in the all-around with a 34.95 to finish fifth and wound up seventh on the floor (9.2), missing out on a third medal by one spot.
Another Medina sophomore, Natalie Radice, was 10th in the all-around at 32.55 as the Bees recorded the top team score in the county in a full calendar year.
“And there is more improvement to come,” Palmer said.
Brunswick finished a solid seventh at 122.35, led by senior Becky May’s 31.45 in the all-around. Sophomore Amy Bruce (31.15) and senior Amanda Stertzbach (30.05) also competed in every event for the Blue Devils, who used a meet-high nine gymnasts.
“Amanda, Becky and Amy are really good role models on our team, so it’s nice to see them all do so well at this meet,” Brunswick coach Michelle Miller said.
Bruce paced the Blue Devils on the vault (7.75) and floor (8.6), while May (7.7) led them on the bars and Stertzbach was best on the beam (8.3).
“I think we’re doing pretty good this year, especially since half of the girls on the team are freshmen and they’re going through the high school season for the first time,” May said. “It’s a big adjustment, but we’re helping them get through it because we were all in the same position three years ago.”
Stertzbach added that she, May, Nicole Ferrier and Megan Chiara have extra motivation to push their teammates in practice and at major meets.
“We’ve got that senior-year drive in us,” the three-year veteran said. “Knowing this is our last chance to all compete together, we want to make it the best season ever.”
Buckeye freshman Mackenzie Chegan also represented the county and made her season debut. She scored a 7.55 on the floor and a 7.45 on the vault.
All-Gazette selections Megan Kerrigan and McKenna Baluch of Medina — both battling significant ankle injuries — competed on the bars and floor, but were greatly limited. Both did, however, perform their first dismounts of the season off the high bar.
l Avon’s team finished 11th, but did not have the services of state all-around favorite Whitney Stoops, who tweaked a knee in practice earlier in the week. Eagles coach Natalie Turek said she expects Stoops to be fine.
l Midpark freshman Rachael Parso is a former Brunswick resident. Her best score was a 7.9 on the floor, and she competed in the all-around.
l Buckeye, Berea and Archbold sent individual gymnasts, while Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary entered the meet, but did not show up for it.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.