The Section VI Girls Gymnastics Championship pitted the all-star, Lancaster’s Courtney Bondanza, who won the past two Section VI titles, against the rising star in Williamsville South seventh-grader Zoe Kyriakopoulos.
Only two-tenths of a point separated Kyriakopoulos from Bondanza going into the final event, the vault.
But the Lancaster junior showed her perseverance in the final stages of the meet.
She stuck a front triple-tuck to close the door on Kyriakopoulos and give Bondanza her third consecutive all-around Section VI title at Kenmore West High School on Friday.
“She’s got the experience and that carried over tremendously,” Lancaster coach Donna Aquino said about Bondanza’s performance.
“It is tough to stay on top, and doing it three years in a row is amazing. I’m not sure that we’ve had a girl in our section who’s done that before.”
Bondanza’s 37.775 all-around score bested her 37.50 mark from a year ago, and ended up being more than three-tenths better than Kyriakopoulos.
Bondanza took first in the uneven bars (9.400) and the floor (9.600), which was best individual score in any event in the championship.
Kyriakopoulos, though, was able to lead Williamsville South to its first Sectional team title since 2004, edging Lancaster, 109.950 to 109.250, and breaking its rival’s team title streak of six.
“It was very important to the kids,” Williamsville South coach Kurt Stumpf said of the championship.
“The last couple years they could see our team building and then this year getting a couple more seventh- and eighth-graders we really thought we had a good chance.
“That was their goal from the beginning of the season.”
Miranda Robinson (36.300) and Lily Szafranski (36.250), who finished fourth and fifth in the all-around, respectively, also contributed to Williamsville South’s title.
Combined with Kyriakopoulos, the trio finished 1-2-3 on the beam, with Kyriakopoulos taking first (9.450). Szafranski finished fifth on the floor (9.250), fifth in the all-around (36.250) and a gritty fourth on the vault (9.300) with a Kerri Strug landing on a tender right ankle. Robinson took fourth on the uneven bars (9.150).
“I told her this is it,” Stumpf said. “No matter what you did the whole day today, it’s not really important because it all comes down to this vault. Here’s your chance to be the hero. And she did it.”
Lancaster’s Rachel Filipski, who set the Sectional record in 2011, won the event with a score of 9.575.
Bondanza, Filipski, Robinson and Szafranski will all be returning to states, along with Lancaster’s Rachel Donner and Williamsville East’s Ana Reyes, who finished third overall (36.700).
Joining the Section VI state team, which won in 2012 and finished third last March, is Kyriakopoulos, Frontier’s Michaela Kacmarski and Orchard Park’s Rebecca Obrachta.
“They’re already talking about going to states,” Aquino said.
“Halfway through the meet Miranda Robinson came up to me and said ‘I’m ready for the state team.’ They like going, they have a good time, but they know how to work when they get there too,” Aquino added.
The girls gymnastic state meet is Feb. 28-March 1 at The College at Brockport.