MEDINA — Cloverleaf junior Maddie Brandt put together a tremendous regular season, dominating the North East Gymnastics Conference from start to finish.
Somehow, though, she managed to be even better Saturday at the Medina Sectional.
Brandt scored a career-high 36.45 in winning her first sectional championship in the all-around by a whopping 0.9 points over Quinn Kacirek of North Olmsted.
The 2012 state qualifier also finished first on the balance beam (9.125), first on the vault (9.225), second on the uneven parallel bars (9.025), and sixth in the floor exercise (9.075) to claim the maximum five berths for the Painesville Riverside District on Feb. 23.
“This is the first meet that I’ve actually landed everything this year, so it was a pretty good day,” Brandt said modestly. “What made it even better was our whole team getting out. Everyone did really awesome for us and helped us qualify.”
Medina (136.25) captured its second straight team championship, while Cloverleaf snared the fourth and final team district qualifying spot with 130.4. NEGC champion Wooster (128.3) was fifth, Brunswick (126.75) was sixth and Wadsworth (120.575) placed ninth.
Bees sophomore Samantha Borrelli joined Brandt as the only quintuple district qualifiers from Medina County. She won the bars crown (9.25), finished third in the all-around (35.325) and third on the floor (9.2) one week after crushing the competition at the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division Meet.
“I approached this like it was any other meet because if I think about it too much, I get caught up in it like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s sectionals,’” Borrelli said while breaking into laughter. “I could have done better, but I worked hard all week, so I’m happy with my day.”
Wadsworth sophomore Callie Almes and Medina sophomore Kira Palmer accounted for the county’s other top-five finishes. Almes was second on the beam (9.05), while Palmer placed fifth on the vault (9.025) and also qualified in the all-around, bars and floor.
“It was a bad day for me, but my teammates did really well,” Almes said. “Fortunately, I finished with the beam, so I could make it out to districts.”
Cloverleaf sophomore Cassie Grabowski also rose to the occasion by advancing in three events (all-around, bars, vault), while Wadsworth sophomore Charlotte Bates (bars, beam) and Brunswick senior Amanda Stertzbach (beam, all-around) moved on in two. The top 12 placers punched their tickets to districts.
“Maddie had an awesome day and Cassie did really well in the all-around,” Colts coach Stacy Thornburg said. “So did Robyn (Tresch) and Hanna (Kotlarek); really everybody on our team was very solid.”
The Bees’ team title was truly a team effort by all eight of their athletes.
Senior Megan Kerrigan (beam), juniors Gabby Lynskey (beam) and McKenna Baluch (bars), and sophomore Natalie Radice (floor) also claimed district individual bids, while senior Madeline Yurkoski and sophomore Shannon Moran contributed at least one score toward the squad’s championship.
“It says a lot about our toughness and fortitude that we’ve been able to overcome so many injuries and win this meet,” said Lynskey, a first-time individual district qualifier. “It made it even more special to have it happen in our own gym.
“Now, it’s time to focus on our next goal — to make it to state.”
While the Blue Devils did not collectively extend their season, Stertzbach kept her prep career going. She counted scores in all four events, as did fellow senior Nicole Ferrier and sophomore Amy Bruce.
Stertzbach’s 33.125 in the all-around was Brunswick’s best of the season, while Bruce earned a career-high 31.625.
“I give it my all every day in practice, and this was one of the best meets I’ve ever had,” Bruce said. “All of the girls on the team did really well today, which showed in our scores.
“But I’m sad to see the season end because this was the closest group we’ve had because of the seniors. They’ve been great leaders and teammates.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.