HILLIARD — From the first day of practice last fall, Maddie Brandt vowed to peak during the postseason. Specifically, the Cloverleaf junior wanted to be at her best in time for the 2013 state gymnastics meet.
Consider that mission accomplished.
Brandt posted the highest all-around finish at state by a Medina County gymnast in six years Saturday, tying for fourth place with a score of 36.35 at Hilliard Bradley High.
Brecksville’s Alecia Farina (38.35) and Michaela Romito (37.9), and Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin’s Claire Spech (36.625) comprised the top three, while Findlay’s Alexa Settlemire shared the same spot on the podium with Brandt.
“I landed everything in my events today, which is awesome because this is where you want to do it,” a beaming Brandt said.
“I was so excited about the way things were going that I almost forgot my entire floor routine when I was out there — and I landed right on the (out of bounds) tape twice — but everything turned out OK in the end.”
It did and then some, as she earned All-Ohio honors for the second year in a row in the all-around. The last county performer to finish higher in the cumulative event was Medina’s Nicole Rymer, who placed third in 2007.
Brandt also finished 12th on the floor exercise (9.025) and 15th on the vault (9.1), but was even better on the balance beam, where she earned a career-high 9.45 to tie Farina for the top score at the meet.
Unfortunately for Brandt, she didn’t advance on the beam out of the Painesville Riverside District, so her score only counted in the all-around — and she did not share the state championship with Farina.
“At first, I was elated because that was my highest score ever on beam,” Brandt said. “But then, I also got irritated a little bit when I thought about what happened.
“I did it to myself last week at districts, so I’ll have to use that for motivation to try and do better next season.”
Brandt was one of six local qualifiers for the most important prep meet in Ohio, which was the largest county contingent since seven girls took part in 2006.
Medina sophomore Samantha Borrelli matched Brandt as a two-time state qualifier and two-time All-Ohio honoree by finishing eighth on the floor (9.2). She also was 29th in the all-around (33.75), 29th on the beam (8.275), and 36th on the uneven parallel bars (7.25).
Less than 15 hours earlier, Borrelli posted the Bees’ highest scores across the board at the state team meet. Medina finished seventh in its first appearance at the event in six years.
“I know she’s disappointed right now, but I hope Sam realizes what a great season she had,” Medina coach Darcy Ranallo said. “Sometimes you put so much pressure on yourself to do well on one event, like Sam did on bars, that it affects everything else.
“The only time I think she relaxed all day and had fun was on the floor, where she looked like good old Sam.”
Wadsworth sophomore Callie Almes, Medina sophomore Kira Palmer and Medina junior Gabby Lynskey each made their state debuts by appearing in one event apiece.
Palmer placed 12th on the floor (9.025) and found herself awed by the competition.
“The (overflow) crowd looking down from the bleachers wasn’t necessarily intimidating, but watching all of the other girls here, I just kept thinking, ‘Aw, man. They’re all so good.’” Palmer said while bursting into laughter. “There wasn’t anybody who you saw and knew right away that you would beat them.”
Lynskey was the first competitor of the morning on the beam, where she finished 19th (8.575).
“I was definitely nervous being the first one up, but it was kind of nice to get it out of the way early,” Lynskey said. “I stayed on the beam and we had a great two days as a team. I don’t think our season could have ended any better than this.”
Almes placed 26th on the beam (8.375), completing the season without a fall on her specialty. After missing a connection on her series, she nailed her back-tuck perfectly, drawing cheers from the other gymnasts that were matside.
“Having my whole (Grizzlies) team surprise me today by driving down was amazing,” Almes said. “Now that I know what the whole state experience is like, I want to make it back in the all-around next year.”
The sixth and final county participant — Medina senior Megan Kerrigan — began the day sitting in the stands as a first alternate. Fate, however, intervened as Cuyahoga Heights’ Bailey Rosolowski pulled out of the floor exercise just 30 minutes before the end of the meet.
OHSAA associate commissioner Deborah Moore quickly called an audible, found Kerrigan and told her to put on her leotard. She was given the final routine in the final rotation, allowing the four-year letterwinner to end her career with every fan, coach and official in the gymnasium watching her.
A visibly thrilled Kerrigan scored an 8.675 and finished 27th, ahead of nine other girls who had a full week to prepare.
“I can’t believe I just performed at state after not even making it out of sectionals,” said Kerrigan, who was the first alternate going into the Painesville Riverside District one week earlier. “My (severely sprained right) ankle hasn’t hurt this bad since I was in a boot (in January), but it was well worth it.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.