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Girls’ gymnastics: Annalisa DeBari earns top honors

NORTHBORO — Melrose senior Annalisa DeBari came back to beat out the competition at the Massachusetts Coaches’ Association Individual Gymnastics Championship at Algonquin Regional High School Saturday.

DeBari, last year’s second-place finisher, won the all-around competition with a score of 36.475.

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“I really wanted this this year since I didn’t get it last year,” said DeBari. “I was really happy that my best was good enough to win first place.”

The top 40 all-around female gymnasts in the state competed, performing in vault, balance beam, floor exercise, and uneven bars for an overall score.

Junior Heather Gomes of Beverly was second with a score of 36.275, an improvement from her third place finish last year, and sophomore Kalena Wang of Newton South came in third with a 36.225 total, helped by a first place in balance beam with a 9.550.

Minor changes to her routine made all the difference for DeBari this year.

“Last year she missed first place by .05. She doesn’t give herself enough credit. That’s how close it was,” said her coach, Denise Valdez. “She had little tweaks here and there. Just hard work and all those little things she had to fix she did.”

DeBari, who placed top 10 in all four events this year, said: “I really haven’t changed too much. I’ve done the same floor routine and vault. I was just cleaner, I think.”

Her efforts put her .200 ahead of the rest of the competition.

DeBari will attend Tufts in the fall where she will run track.

“I’m so proud of her. She’s awesome. I’m going to miss her,” said Valdez. “She’s one of those kids who put their minds to something and is very focused.”

DeBari will continue on to the MIAA North Sectional with her team Saturday at Hudson High School. Last week she led Melrose to the Middlesex League title and the Red Raiders are seeded fifth for the sectional meet. She was also selected to represent the Massachusetts team in the Nationals in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., in May.

Senior Eleanor Almeida of Chelmsford, who came in 16th, won the Senior Gymnast of the Year award, which recognizes the athlete who most displayed leadership, sportsmanship, and commitment to gymnastics throughout her high school career. Dracut coach Paula Chausse was awarded Coach of the Year.

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