NORTHBOROUGH — Nauset senior Kim Stewart vaulted her way to the top of the podium at the Massachusetts Coaches’ Association Individual Gymnastics Championship at Algonquin Regional High School Saturday afternoon.
Stewart won the all-around competition with a total score of 37.650, an improvement of .375 on her third-place finish last year. Her greater confidence made all the difference this time around.
“The way she competes has come so far in the last year,” said her coach, Jen Watkins. “She is the hardest worker and has always put in the hours in the gym, but that wasn’t it, it’s her confidence. She’s a completely different girl.”
The meet gives the top 40 all-around female gymnasts in the state a chance to perform as individuals before the MIAA sectional meets. The all-around combines the athletes’ scores in the vault, balance beam, floor exercise, and uneven bars.
Junior Analissa DeBari of Melrose came in second with an overall score of 37.600 and sophomore Heather Gomes of Beverly finished third with a 37.375. Hannah Phelan of Walpole won the beam with a 9.600 and Alex Romano of Westborough was first in floor with a 9.500.
Stewart had to tackle the balance beam first, an event she won last year but struggled with on Saturday. Her score of 9.100 tied for 13th place.
“To get my hardest event over with first actually helps me because then I can just focus on the rest of the meet,” said Stewart. This proved to be the right formula as she became stronger in each event: 9.300 and third place in the floor and two firsts in the vault (9.600) and bars (9.650).
“After the floor I was concerned because it was a very low floor score for her. It got me nervous,” said Watkins. “But she has the best vault in the state, if not the whole region. And she hit her bar routine.”
Stewart, who earlier in the week won the all-around at the Cranberry League meet, will attend the University of Bridgeport in the fall on a combined athletic and academic scholarship. “I’m really, really proud of Kimmy and [fellow senior] Jill [Gagnon]. I’ve been coaching them since they were babies,” said Watkins.
Sharon senior Samantha Kaplan, last year’s champion, finished fourth with a 37.350. But it was friendly competition between the two seniors who compete year-round for private clubs. They’ll meet again at Saturday’s MIAA South sectionals.
Kaplan also received the Senior Gymnast of the Year Award, which recognizes the athlete who most displayed team leadership, sportsmanship and commitment to gymnastics throughout her high school career. Barnstable coach Duncan Chase was named Coach of the Year. The Red Raiders are the top seed in the South.