SMALL BUT fierce. The Melrose High gymnastics team relied on just six athletes to compete and win over Arlington last week to start 1-0. Pictured top left-right: Taylor Pesce, Katherine Carney, Sofia Pitcher, Maya Weissman, Grace Gentile. Bottom: Kaitlyn Plourde, Lucy Hannon and Grace Burke. (Jennifer Gentile photo)


Short-staffed Melrose opens with improbable win



SAUGUS—They had the unenviable position of having to compete just six athletes in four events during their home opener against Arlington last Friday, Jan. 14, but a small and fierce collection of dedicated Melrose High varsity gymnastics pulled off the near-impossible with a season opening win against Arlington by a score of 132.7-127.55 to start their season off 1-0.

The team of 11 athletes had been battling scheduling conflicts and injuries that hit them particularly hard the week of January 11 but thanks to the dazzling and consistent work of captains Lucy Hannon and Katherine Carney and gymnasts Grace Burke, Sofia Pitcher, Maya Weissman and Katelyn Plourde, they topped their opponents in every event.

It was exactly what Melrose head coach Denise Valdez wanted to see. “I was so happy for the girls, they were amazing. I wanted them to go out and have fun and that’s what they did. We had to go up short on each event and they still came out on top. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Senior captain Lucy Hannon topped the night, leading in all four events with an all around total of 35.2, with a best score of 9.2 in beam. Her teammate Grace Burke, junior, also served as all-around and finished high with a total of 33.0 points.

It was consistency that was Melrose’s calling card. Melrose beat Arlington in all events but showed particular strength in the vault with Katherine Carney topping the event with a 8.8 followed by Lucy Hannon (8.6), Sofia Pitcher (8.5), Grace Burke (8.2) and Maya Weissman (8.1). Some other standout scores included Hannon in bars (8.6) and floor (8.8) Grace Burke in bars (8.5) and Katherine Carney on floor (8.5). In most events Melrose did not see a drop below 8.0, so that consistency paid dividends against Arlington, who competed strongly in the vault and beam.

Sitting on the sidelines for Melrose were multi-event athletes Taylor Pesce (senior) and Grace Gentile (sophomore) who hope to be back later in the season. Melrose looks forward to their other gymnasts Isabella Ferranti, Noah Williamson and Owen Mistretta, getting back into the fold as they continue their Middlesex League schedule. They will next host Malden this evening, Friday, January 21 at the Saugus YMCA at 7:15 p.m.