The slogan on the back of the Cranford gymnastics T-shirts reads: “Don’t Be Afraid To Dream Too Big.”
After beating Westfield in the regular season and also capturing the Cougar Classic at Cranford two weeks ago, Cranford was dreaming of winning the Union County meet held Friday night at Westfield.
Considered a slight favorite over a Westfield program that had won five straight county titles, the evening’s competition couldn’t have been more evenly matched between the two county powers. In the end, however, it was defending champion and host Westfield coming out on top by the slightest of margins.
The Blue Devils had a final point total of 109.150 and the Cougars 109.050. It was that close. Westfield ended up winning its sixth straight title and as a result will host the 2012 tournament in 12 months.
Cranford was still very proud to place second, sparked by repeat all-around champion Mary Kate Walch. The standout senior had the best score of 37.400, placing in all four events.
“I didn’t think the score was going to be that close,” Walch said. “Since we beat them in the Cougar and in a dual meet I thought we had an advantage. It could have been anything from toes on the bar to a bobble on the beam to a judges’ decision by very little.”
Walch was first in a school-record score of 9.525 in the uneven parallel bars, sixth in the balance beam at 9.050, third in the floor exercise at 9.400 and third in vault at 9.425.
“I was happy to go out this way as a senior,” said Walch, who continue her gymnastics in college and is considering Division 1 schools Temple and the University of New Hampshire, Division 2 West Chester and Division 3 Ithaca. “I was concentrating and looking for hits. On bars I was very happy to get a much higher score. I had to fix my hand stand position.”
Cranford head coach Michele Charney Hulse also didn’t think the final result was going to be as close as it was.
“A step here and a bobble there,” Hulse said. “All of our girls hit and really did a nice job.”
Hulse will miss not having Walch in the lineup next season.
“It’s not easy to repeat as the all-around champion, so I’m happy for Mary Kate,” Hulse said. “She’s a hard worker and always focused. She was consistent and kept all her routines.”
Cranford super sophomore Alexandra Puryear, who had the best all-around score at the Cougar Classic at 37.125, won the vault event at 9.500 and finished third with an all-around score of 37.250.
“I practiced hard, was nervous at first, but my team calmed me down,” Puryear said. “I was happy to do what I was able to do in practice.”
“Alexandra did a great job,” Hulse said. “She consistently hit.”
Puryear was also third in uneven parallel bars at 9.175, fourth in balance beam at 9.275 and fourth in floor exercise at 9.300.
Cranford’s Emily Grable placed in floor exercise, finishing sixth at 9.175. In the Oct. 7 Cougar Classic at Cranford, the home team Cougars were first with a score of 108.35 and Westfield second at 105.525.
In a dual meet Oct. 4 at Westfield, Cranford won 108.1 to 107.25. Cranford is 8-0 in dual meets, with wins over Johnson, Union, Scotch Plains, Dayton, Bridgewater-Raritan, Westfield, Elizabeth and Montgomery.
Cranford defeated Scotch Plains 105.35 to 104.10 at home, Bridgewater-Raritan 108.575 to 107.7 on the road and Montgomery 105.875 to 105.475 on the road.
Cranford Cougars: Rebecca Baytala, Ashley Favato, Marissa Frank, Emily Grable, Bryanna Grant, Kailyn Grant, Serina Lardieri, Sara LoBue, Erin McAuliffe, Alesandra Puryear, Julia Salinardo, Casey Sciascia, Gabby Siano, Mary Kate Walch.
Head coach: Michele Charney Hulse
Assistant coach: Mike Dow
2011 UCT GYMNASTICS AT WESTFIELD
TEAMS: 1-Westfield 109.150. 2-Cranford 109.050. 3-Scotch Plains 104.850.
4-Union Catholic 98.000. 5-Union 90.525. 6-Johnson 87.250. 7-Elizabeth 59.450.
8-Dayton 57.550. 9-Summit 34.675. 10-GL.
1-Mary Kate Walch, Cranford, 37.400.
2-Abby Cook, Westfield, 37.275.
3-Alexandra Puryear, 37.250.
4-Nicole Pietrapertosa, Union Catholic, 36.225.
5-Alex Peluso, Scotch Plains, 36.150.
6-Bianca Briscese, Johnson, 35.625.
1-Alexandra Puryear, Cranford, 9.500.
2-Nicole Pietrapertosa, Union Catholic, 9.475.
3-Mary Kate Walch, Cranford 9.425.
4-Alex Peluso, Scotch Plains, 9.300.
5-Jenna Rizkalia, Westfield, 9.200.
6-Kacie Bumiller, Scotch Plains, 9.175.
UNEVEN PARALLEL BARS:
1-Mary Kate Walch, Cranford, 9.525.
2-Abby Cook, Westfield, 9.300.
3-Alexandra Puryear, Cranford, 9.175.
Christin Martins, Summit, 9.175.
4-Nicole Pietrapertosa, Union Catholic, 8.700.
5-Mae Devin, Westfield, 8.525.
6-Lindsay Ripperger, Westfield, 8.500.
1-Lindsay Ripperger, Westfield, 9.500.
2-Alex Peluso, Scotch Plains, 9.475.
3-Abby Cook, Westfield, 9.450.
4-Alexandra Puryear, Cranford, 9.275.
5-Nicole Pietrapertosa, Union Catholic, 9.250.
6-Mary Kate Walch, Cranford, 9.050.
1-Bianca Briscese, Johnson, 9.500.
2-Abby Cook, Westfield, 9.425.
3-Mary Kate Walch, Cranford, 9.400.
4-Alexandra Puryear, Cranford, 9.300.
5-Hannah Goldring, Westfield, 9.200
6-Emily Grable, Cranford, 9.175.
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