By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — The Melrose Lady Raider gymnastic team was back in fine shape on Saturday, Feb. 21 at the 2015 MIAA North Sectional Championships held at Hudson High School. Melrose earned a total of 133.25 for an overall eighth place finish.
Melrose freshman Shay Fennell represented Melrose’s top finish coming in 16th out of nearly 130 athletes with a combined total of 33.950. Lauren Cincotta earned Melrose’s top score with a 9.1 in vault, eighth in the event.
The Lady Raiders showed particular strength in floor (33.650) and vault (33.900) thanks to efforts from senior captain Audrey McFarland, Brooke Norris, Shay Fennell and Isabel Albuja (in floor) and in vault saw Fennell, Cincotta, Albuja and Norris earn solid scores. Among the other notable performances in beam and bars were Cincotta (8.450 bars) and Fennell in beam (9.0) Individually, Melrose enjoyed some strong showing in the all around category. Besides Fennell, Lady Raiders Isabel Albuja (25), Brooke Norris (38), Tanya Dutra (44) cracked the top 50.
Melrose ended their season at 5-2, missing a league title but finished on Saturday ahead of the only Middlesex League team who qualified for sectionals, Woburn (11th). Overall, a satisfying bounce-back. For coach Denise Valdez, Sectionals was a re-affirming experience. “They are incredibly talented and I’m so glad that something sparked in them after leagues. They came in different girls and did so well.” As for the end of the winning streak. “Well, it had to happen sometime,” Valdez quips.
Departing this season are their seniors Audrey McFarland and Hannah Jordow, two athletes the coach will miss. “Hannah is a spitfire, so happy, sweet and willing to try anything for us. And Audrey, I’ve known her so long. I can’t believe she’s already leaving, she was an athlete who always surprised us with what she can do.”