By Mike Zummo
The Valley Central gymnastics team, in its second year of existence, is not only coming off its second straight Section 9 championship but is also sending five athletes to Saturday’s New York State championship meet on Saturday at Kenmore West High School.
It’s the most out of any Section 9 school. The only other school to be sending more than one gymnast is Franklin D. Roosevelt, which will send two (Emma Jaeger) and Julia Meyer. Wallkill (Marlee McCullough), New Paltz (Claire Coiteux) and Kingston (Ava Ziros) each will send one.
The Vikings will be sending their all-around Section 9 champion Reilly Benson, who will compete in all four events, Eleanor O’Neill (floor exercise, balance beam), Baily Badendyck (vault, floor exercise), Erin Sullivan (vault, floor exercise), balance beam) and Leah Rieber (vault, bar).
Three of those Vikings – Benson, O’Neill and Badendyck are the only ones returning.
Benson was Section 9’s top finisher with a 17th place finish with a total score of 34.200, finishing 19th on the vault, 20th on the floor, and 24th in the balance beam and uneven bars. Badendyck and O’Neill competed in one event each. Badendyck was 31st on the vault and O’Neill was 35th in the vault.
McCullough, who was second all-around in Section 9 will represent the Wallkill Panthers. She finished 20th last year, taking 18th on the balance beam, 23rd on the floor, 27th on the uneven bars and 30th on the vault.
“It was very fun,” Benson said. “Each team got closer. We all got closer staying in hotels and the rooms. The competition was good there.”
Competition will start at 10 a.m. and will take place in five rotations. Section 9 will be paired with the New York City Public School Athletic League team, and will begin with the floor exercise, then the vault. After taking a break for Rotation 3, the teams will return for the uneven bars and the balance beam.
Sullivan and Rieber are going for the first time, and those who went before are looking to improve on last year’s finishes.
“I would like to get higher scores than I did last year, and just to improve a little bit,” Benson said.