June 27, 2016

Partly cloudy

State gymnastics: They were nothing short of special

HILLIARD — Maddie Brandt and Samantha Borrelli ended their spectacular seasons in fitting fashion at the state gymnastics meet.

Cloverleaf senior Brandt finished third in the all-around and on the balance beam, while Medina junior Borrelli was the runner-up on the uneven parallel bars Saturday at Hilliard Bradley High.

Brandt also placed sixth on the bars as the duo combined for four podium placements and state medals — the most by Medina County gymnasts at the premier meet in Ohio since 2007.

“I am really, really happy with the way today went,” Borrelli said. “Maddie went out with a bang — I’m so proud of her for finishing so strong — and I’m absolutely ecstatic with the way my bars routine went.

“I felt so much good pressure out there, and I know Maddie did too, that it makes standing on the podium feel that much better afterwards.”

Brandt became the first Medina County gymnast to medal in consecutive years since Medina’s Nicki Rymer in 2007-08. Brandt finished fourth in the all-around last winter.

Borrelli’s second-place finish on the bars equaled the top showing by a local gymnast in the last seven seasons, joining Cloverleaf’s Ashley Rose in 2009 and 2012 on the bars.

“It’s so awesome coming here and cheering for all the girls that you’ve been friends with for years, like Sam and I have,” Brandt said. “I’m just hoping that it won’t hit me anytime soon that this was my last time competing at state.

“This has been an amazing experience and I give all the glory to God for exalting me so much today.”

North East Gymnastics Conference MVP Brandt tied her career-high score of 36.85 in the all-around in finishing third behind Brecksville’s Alecia Farina (38.325) and Nordonia’s Monica Batton (38.0).

Brandt’s third-place showing on the beam (9.3) also followed Batton (9.475) and Farina (9.45), but she called it “the highlight of my day.”

The three-time state qualifier tied for the top state beam score in 2013 with a 9.45 as part of the all-around, but didn’t share the title because she failed to advance out of the Painesville Riverside District one week earlier.

“I was really excited when I landed it because I knew my score actually counted this time,” Brandt said, laughing. “It was so frustrating last year, but I only had myself to blame for not getting out of districts.”

Brandt scored a 9.05 on the bars and added a seventh-place finish in the floor exercise — scoring a season-high 9.3 — and a 10th on the vault (9.2). She earned All-Ohio honors in the maximum five events, solidifying her 2013-14 season as one of the best in county history.

“Maddie is a beautiful gymnast and she performed beautiful gymnastics today,” Colts coach Stacy Thornburg said with tears in her eyes. “I’m so happy for her because she deserves it, but I’m also very sad that this was her final high school meet.”

Borrelli also used her two previous state appearances for motivation, having competed in seven total events as a freshman and sophomore, but never finishing higher than eighth.

The Northeast Ohio Conference MVP shattered her glass ceiling by debuting a high-energy bars routine that scored a 9.4. She finished second to Farina (9.6), while Batton (9.35) was third.

“Sam had a very good bars routine at districts, but we wanted it to be great at state,” Bees coach Darcy Ranallo said. “At this point of the season, you try and go big with everything you can — and Sam nailed all of her skills perfectly.”

Borrelli finished ninth in the all-around (36.0) — just 0.3 out of another medal — was 11th on the floor (9.125) and tied for 28th on the vault (8.85). As important, she ended the meet with a smile on her face as she exchanged congratulations with her peers.

“We had a great year in Medina County, we really did,” Borrelli said while breaking into a wide grin.

“It also feels really good to represent my school at state. It makes me very happy when I get recognition from our athletic director, so hopefully that will happen again this week.”

In her second trip to state, Medina junior Kira Palmer finished 19th on the floor (8.95) and was 30th in the all-around (34.275). She scored an 8.65 on the beam during the latter competition, which ranked among the top 30 scores on the afternoon.

“I was having fun and I improved on a lot of things from last year,” Palmer said. “But the best part was being able to cheer for Sam and Maddie while we competed in the all-around. To be there for each other in this intense setting was awesome.”

Cloverleaf junior Cassie Grabowski and Wadsworth junior Charlotte Bates rounded out the county’s quintet, with each making their state debuts in one event.

Bates was part of the opening flight at the four-plus hour meet, finishing 36th on the bars (7.275), while Grabowski had to wait until the final rotation of the day and placed 28th on the vault (8.85).

“I knew it would be tough because of all the great gymnasts here, but things really were loud and exciting the whole time,” Grabowski said. “Being able to follow Maddie around before we vaulted together was kind of cool. So was seeing Sam and Kira and Charlotte. I had a lot of fun.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.