Gymnastics is a sport for the young and petite.
U.S. Olympian Gabby Douglas, for example, was 17 years olds with a 4-foot-11, 94-pound frame when she won the all-around gold medal in London.
So when some young guns stole the show at the Chagrin Valley Conference championship meet last Thursday at West Geauga, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
Freshmen Caroline Wolfhope and Maddie Prosek powered the host Lady Wolverines to their first conference title since 2006.
“It was really exciting,” Wolfhope said. “Like, everyone was so happy. It was the first time in a really long time that West G has won the CVCs. I just know the last time we won was when Gina Gastaldo, our coach, was a senior.”
Gastaldo scored a 37.525 in the all-around competition in 2006 to propel the Lady Wolverines to 128.775 team finish that year.
Last Thursday, it was a double threat in the all-around by runner-up Wolfhope, 33.950, and fourth-place Prosek, 32.350, that put West Geauga back on top with a 127.8 scorecard, besting defending champion Kenston’s 125.2 team mark. The Lady Bombers had won the title four of the last five years.
From 2003 to 2006, Gastaldo was a four-time state champion on the balance beam, with 9.6 marks at the big dance. When she used to perform her routine on that narrow piece of wood that’s 4 feet in the air, everyone stopped to watch her.
Eight years later, it was much of the same for Wolfhope, when she won first place on the floor exercise with an 8.9 at the CVC meet. All eyes in the gymnasium seemed to be on her tiny frame.
“I just feel like, I feel comfortable out there,” the freshman said about her floor exercise that was choreographed by a Ukrainian world champ. “For some reason, it just feels easy to me, like tumbling. I’ve just never had a problem with floor, and it’s always been my favorite event, performing wise.”
In her other events, Wolfhope finished second on the vault with an 8.35, second on the uneven parallel bars with a state-caliber 8.85 and sixth on the beam with a 7.850, despite having two falls.
“I’m excited to know that, if I nail it on the bars, then I can do really good,” she said.
Kenston sophomore Sammi Nero, meanwhile, claimed the all-around CVC title with her triumphant performances on the vault, 8.95, bars, 9.25, and beam, 8.9. She was second on the floor with an 8.8 for an all-around total of 35.9.
“That was my best meet of the season, and I’m glad I did good there, because the CVC is an important meet,” Nero said. “So I’m happy I did good for my team.”
Nero, who has plans to compete as a level 10 gymnast with her club team at Elite Gymnastics Academy in Solon, did not participate with the Lady Bombers last year. With the stress of four-hour practices during club season, she said, she needed a little break to relax and have fun with some of her classmates from school.
Specifically on the bars, Nero is a gymnast to stop and see. Her 9.25 score from CVC would have been good enough for third place at the state meet last year.
“Bars is my best out of every event, and it’s my favorite too,” she said. “My coach really likes bars, and we paid a lot of attention to them when I was little. Ever since then, I just mainly focus on bars.”
Another gymnast who posted a state-caliber score on the bars was Chagrin Falls freshman Lauren Prince, who carded an 8.8 at the CVC meet for third
While the Lady Tiger is petite, she is anything but short – towering over many of her competitors at 5-foot-9.
“Bars is definitely a challenge, because, well, I’m not bragging or anything, but I have to be stronger to pull myself around,” Prince said. “While the shorter girls can’t hit the low bar when they’re on the high bar, I have to like tuck down a little to make sure I miss when I’m swinging on it. So it’s a lot harder for me, but I think I’ve adapted pretty well.”
Prince took third in the all-around competition with a 33.55. She finished third on beam, 8.3, fourth on vault, 8.25, and fourth on floor, 8.2, to round out her card.
After growing up in the Phoenix area, Prince moved to Chagrin Falls last year and is actually the only gymnast on the Lady Tigers’ high school team this season. There are a few other competitors in the nine-team CVC competition who are in the same boat, however.
“I practice with a lot of the other girls, so I don’t really feel like I’m alone,” Prince said. “There’s other girls who know what it feels like to be the only one in your whole school to be doing gymnastics. So it’s nice, because we all support each other.”
Following are top-10 finishers from West Geauga, Kenston and Chagrin Falls in each event at last Thursday’s Chagrin Valley Conference championship meet at West Geauga:
Vault: 1. Sammi Nero, K, sophomore, 8,950; 2. Caroline Wolfhope, WG, freshman, 8.35; 3. Allison D’Alessandro, WG, freshman, 8.3; 4. Lauren Prince, CF, freshman, 8.25; 6. Maddie Prosek, WG, freshman, 8.2; 7. Brooke Mostar, K, 8.15; 10. Dominique Kestranek, K, junior, 8.05.
Uneven parallel bars: 1. Sammi Nero, K, sophomore, 9.25; 2. Caroline Wolfhope, WG, freshman, 8.85; 3. Lauren Prince, CF, freshman, 8.8; 5. Maddie Prosek, WG, freshman, 8.1; 6. Katine Demarchi, WG, junior, 7.8; 8. Brooke Mostar, K, junior, 7.3; 9. Brittney Allard, K, senior, 7.1; 10. Brynn Mihacevich, WG, senior, 7.0.
Balance beam: 1. Sammi Nero, K, sophomore, 8.9; 3. Lauren Prince, CF, freshman, 8.3; 6. Caroline Wolfhope, WG, freshman, 7.85; 7. Maddie Prosek, WG, freshman, 7.8; 8. Cassie McCartney, WG, freshman, 7.65; 9. Brittney Allard, K, senior, 7.45; 10. Brooke Mostar, K, junior, 7.3.
Floor exercise: 1. Caroline Wolfhope, WG, freshman, 8.9; 2. Sammi Nero, K, sophomore, 8.8; 3. Maddie Prosek, WG, freshman, 8.25; 4. Laruen Prince, CF, freshman, 8.2; 5. Brooke Mostar, K, junior, 8.15; 7. (tie) Cassie McCartney, WG, freshman, 7.9; 7. (tie) Dominique Kestranek, K, junior, 7.9.
All-around: 1. Sammi Nero, K, sophomore, 35.9; 2. Caroline Wolfhope, WG, freshman, 8.350; 3. Lauren Prince, CF, freshman, 33.55; 4. Maddie Prosek, WG, freshman, 8.250; 7. Brooke Mostar, K, junior, 30.9; 10. Katina Demarchi, WG, junior, 30.05.
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