All eyes in the Frontier Central gymnasium were on Lancaster’s Courtney Bondanza.
She headed into the last event, the vault, with a comfotable lead in the all-around. But, in gymnastics, it would only have taken one slip or one misstep for her chance to repeat as the Section VI all-around champion to go down the drain.
That didn’t happen.
Bondanza stuck a front handspring, front double-tuck, winning the event with a score of 9.525, defending her title as the Section VI all-around champion with a score of 37.500.
“Amazing,” Bondanza said. “I don’t even know how to describe it.”
Her performance can be described as outstanding. The sophomore, who also holds the state title in the vault and balance beam, won the vault, the floor (9.425) and the uneven bars (9.400). Her all-around score was a half-point better than last year’s (36.975).
The only event she didn’t win was taken by her teammate, Rachel Filipski, who won the balance beam with a score of 9.325. Filipski, who cheered on seemingly everyone in the gymnasium, took second in the all-around with a score of 37.375, second in the uneven bars (9.325), third in the vault (9.475) and fifth in her floor routine (9.250).
Those two will return to states in March at Smithtown-East High School on Long Island and try to lead Lancaster to its sixth-straight team title.
“We have a tradition of winning at Lancaster and that makes it easier for the girls,” said Lancaster coach Donna Aquino, who’s in her 25th year of coaching. “I don’t know if we ever lost what they would do. We always seem to carry a strong program and we seem to carry that tradition on year after year.”
Aquino coaches the Section VI state team, which will be looking to defend its title after winning it all last year and has a good shot to repeat. They return seven gymnasts from last year’s team, including Williamsville South’s Miranda Roberson.
Roberson was attempting to carry her family name as the best gymnast in Western New York. Her brother, Noah, won the boys all-around title Thursday. Miranda, though, finished third in the girls all-around with a score of 36.675, led by a second-place finish on the floor (9.400).
Others making their return to states include Sweet Home’s Jill Daddario, who was named most outstanding senior with a second in the vault (9.500) and third on the floor (9.400), Williamsville South’s Lily Szafranski, and Williamsville East’s Ana Reyes and Alexis Frankowski. Lancaster’s Mackenzie Donner will be a newcomer to states.
“It’s a good crew,” Aquino said. “We don’t compete until March so we just hope everyone stays healthy … but if we keep this same team we should have a very good showing.”