Beat Arlington with season-high score; improve to 5-1

Published in the February 3, 2017 edition

THE MELROSE High girls' gymnastics team had their best showing of the season in their win over Arlington on Friday, January 27. (Donna Larsson photo)

THE MELROSE High girls’ gymnastics team had their best showing of the season in their win over Arlington on Friday, January 27. (Donna Larsson photo)


MELROSE—The Melrose High girls’ gymnastics team earned a key win over Arlington on January 26 with their best performance of the season in a 140.85-128.3 win, their highest point total of the season. Melrose was led by freshmen Katie Wright who swept the competition in every event with scores of over 9.0.

By accumulating such a high point total, Melrose has increased their odds of qualifying for a post season sectional appearance. But first, their regular season finale against a solid Winchester squad is tonight at the Saugus YMCA Gymnastics Center.

“The girls really have pulled together and against Arlington they just brought everything they had,” said Melrose head coach Denise Valdez. “I told them to keep the focus against Winchester. We have to compete at our best and pull out all the stops.”

Melrose enjoyed a very strong beam performance against the Spy Ponders, led by Wright (9.1) and teammate Stephanie Dutra (9.0). Also keeping Melrose high scoring were Tania Dutra (8.9) Shay Fennell (8.7) and Mya Marshall (8.7).

“Beam has been make or break for us, and will continue to be this season,” says the coach. Valdez credits the work of Tania and Stephanie Dutra in the event. “They’re both performing so great. Stephanie has stepped up and become a four event gymnast for us and I couldn’t ask more from Tania, her beam is just incredible.”

Melrose also powered in the floor, with Wright earning an evening best total of 9.2, and an impressive 9.0 earned by Brooke Barriss. Olivia Bernis (8.7), Stephanie Dutra (8.55) also helped Melrose win the event 35.45-32.45.

Barriss, says Valdez, is making incredible progress from an early injury. “She doing beautiful on floor and bars. I’m proud of her.”

Melrose also commanded in the vault. Wright led all athletes with a 9.0 for Melrose, while Brooke Barriss was right behind her at 8.9. Nia Kovacev and Stephanie Dutra also earned points for Melrose to keep them ahead in the event 34.75-33.35.

Valdez could only praise freshmen Katie Wright for her incredible debut season. “She had an outstanding night against Arlington and has been so good all season. She has tremendous difficulty on her events. She has a big future ahead for us.”

The Lady Raiders showed depth in bars, with Wright leading once again with a 9.0, and Ciara Smith an impressive 8.8. Jane Harrington earned points with an 8.7 and Shay Fennell brought it home for Melrose to sweep, 34.95-30.7.

Fennell returns from a serious injury last season. “Shay has worked so hard, and I’m so happy with the progress she is making,” says her coach.

Meanwhile, Ciera Smith, a very promising freshmen, returns in increments from an injury. The high point tallier might have been a game changer had she competed against Reading (Melrose’s only loss this year) but Valdez can’t dwell on that.

“Health is more important. And she has many years ahead for us.”

Melrose, at 5-1, now awaits an always-epic showdown against Winchester, a team who nearly stole their league crown last season. They host the Sachems tonight at 7:15 p.m. at the YMCA Gymnastics Center in Saugus.

“I told the girls to just remained focus and don’t slack for one moment,” says Valdez. “We want to finish strong.”