Feb. 16—Before the NHIAA gymnastics state championship meet at A2 Gym and Cheer in Salem on Sunday, Pelham High School coach Nicole Rozzi and her athletes talked about the importance of having fun while competing.
The Pythons' energy and enthusiasm throughout the meet led them to their first-ever state championship.
Pelham won the meet with a 132.75 score, snapping Pinkerton Academy of Derry's four-year title run. The Astros (131.25), Salem (130.975), Bedford (130.35) and Timberlane of Plaistow (126.475) rounded out the top-five finishers.
"After vault, our first event, we did OK — not anything super standout that brought us where we needed to be," Rozzi said. "Then we went to bars and had our best performance in my 10 years that I've coached with them. There was yelling, screaming, jumping up and down. That really brought us to the next level."
Sophomore Abby Druding helped lead Pelham to the crown by finishing in the top three of every event. She defended her floor exercise individual championship by earning a 9.525 score in that event, finished as the runner-up in both the vault (9.45) and all-around (36.375) and placed third in both the uneven bars (8.55) and balance beam (8.85).
Druding won the all-around, balance beam, floor exercise and vault last year.
"Abby puts a ton of pressure on herself and if I know a gymnast that's that competitive, I know she was holding a ton of weight of the team on her shoulders — fear of disappointing the team, disappointing (me), disappointing herself," Rozzi said. "We worked together all week to tweak her routines, make her as confident as she possibly could and the things that we changed helped build her confidence so much that she was able to carry that through the entire meet."
Pelham also received contributions from junior captain Alexa Chausse and freshman Gabrielle Minuti. Chausse placed sixth in the floor exercise (9.0) and ninth in both the all-around (32.375) and the balance beam (8.475). Minuti took fourth in the uneven bars (8.5) and tied for 17th in the balance beam (8.15).
Rozzi said Chausse kept Pelham's energy up and her teammates in a positive headspace. Minuti worked through recent mental blocks in the uneven bars and a toe injury that she sustained during balance beam warmups on Sunday, Rozzi said.
"It's a very overwhelming feeling," Rozzi said of winning the championship. "There's nothing to describe how it felt."
Bedford senior Tara McGadden helped the Bulldogs to their fourth-place finish by winning individual titles in the all-around (37.25), balance beam (9.3), vault (9.525) and uneven bars (9.25) and placing third in the floor exercise (9.175).
Bedford coach Lisa Moreno said McGadden only competed in the balance beam and uneven bars at the state meet last year, finishing second and fourth, respectively, due to a back injury that sidelined her for 6-8 months.
"This year, after having no gymnastics for quite some time, what stands out most is her muscle memory — her ability to get up there, continue her high level of gymnastics after not having done (it) for so long," Moreno said of McGadden. "You watch her tumble on the floor and beam and it looks effortless for her. ... She makes it look easy because she has that discipline to be able to go out there and make it look so easy. She's probably one of the hardest workers on the team."
Moreno said the goal for her and fellow coaches this season during the COVID-19 pandemic was to simply be able to hold the state meet.
"Just overall we're happy that we were able to get a season in at all," Moreno said. "In the beginning, we as coaches were like, 'We'll do whatever we have to do to keep exposure limited so we can really keep gymnasts healthy and have a state meet.'"
NHIAA Gymnastics State Championships
At A2 Gym and Cheer, Salem
1. Pelham, 132.75; 2. Pinkerton, 131.25; 3. Salem, 130.975; 4. Bedford, 130.35; 5. Timberlane, 126.475; 6. Bishop Guertin, 123.475; 7. Exeter, 120.9; 8. Londonderry, 118.55; 9. Plymouth, 116.475; 10. Windham, 115.125; 11. Goffstown, 112.875; 12. Keene, 110.625; 13. Merrimack, 92.7; 14. Milford, 75.55.
1. Tara McGadden, Bedford, 37.25; 2. Abby Druding, Pelham, 36.375; 3. Lisa Chevaire, Salem, 35.525; 4. Erin Eastwood, Exeter, 33.725; 5. Jenna Mermet, Timberlane, 33.675; 6. Rachel Bolger, Bishop Guertin, 33.425; 7. Bella Balfour, Exeter, 32.85; 7. Anya Cunningham, Raymond, 32.85; 9. Alexa Chausse, Pelham, 32.375; 10. Aquinnah Allain, Plymouth, 32.15.
1. Abby Druding, Pelham, 9.525; 2. Lisa Chevaire, 9.3; 3. Tara McGadden, Bedford, 9.175; 4. Hana Phaneuf, Pinkerton, 9.1; 5. Elisa Bianco, Salem, 9.05; 6. Alexa Chausse, Pelham, 9; 7. Erin Eastwood, Exeter, 8.875; 8. Jenna Mermet, Timberlane, 8.85; 8. Elizabeth Chopra, Bedford, 8.85; 10. Zoe Demers, Pinkerton, 8.8; 10. Sophia Phaneuf, Pinkerton, 8.8.
1. Tara McGadden, Bedford, 9.3; 2. Lisa Chevaire, Salem, 8.9; 3. Abby Druding, Pelham, 8.85; 3. Erin Eastwood, Exeter, 8.85; 5. Zoe Demers, Pinkerton, 8.65; 6. Anya Cunningham, Raymond, 8.5; 6. Leianna Aiello, Salem, 8.5; 6. Hana Phaneuf, Pinkerton, 8.5; 9. Alexa Chausse, Pelham, 8.475; 10. Taylor Mooney, Newfound, 8.45; 10. Allison Hardy, Pelham, 8.45.
1. Tara McGadden, Bedford, 9.525; 2. Abby Druding, Pelham, 9.45; 3. Lisa Chevaire, Salem, 9.425; 4. Ann Quinn, Timberlane, 9.225; 5. Katelyn Cadotte, Bishop Guertin, 8.8; 6. Bella Balfour, Exeter, 8.7; 6. Maddie Cole-Tucker, Bishop Brady, 8.7; 8. Elisa Bianco, Salem, 8.65; 9. Jenna Mermet, Timberlane, 8.575; 10. Anya Cunningham, Raymond, 8.5.
1. Tara McGadden, Bedford, 9.25; 2. Bella Balfour, Exeter, 8.6; 3. Abby Druding, Pelham, 8.55; 4. Gabrielle Minuti, 8.5; 5. Tina Bjeloglic, Pinkerton, 8.3; 6. Jenna Mermet, Timberlane, 8.15; 7. Ann Quinn, Timberlane, 8.05; 8. Rachel Bolger, Bishop Guertin, 8; 9. Lisa Chevaire, Salem, 7.9; 9. Zoe Demers, Pinkerton, 7.9.