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As the Stow-Munroe Falls gymnastics team headed into its sectional meet Feb. 18 at West Geauga High School in Chesterland, the Bulldogs had to know they were walking into a tough meet.
Stow was set to flip in the same sectional with 13-time defending state champion Brecksville-Broadview Heights and perennial power Berea-Midpark.
Scores might not have been what Stow had hoped for, but the bottom line is Stow advanced to the district meet.
Stow finished fourth in the Saturday sectional at West Geauga with a score of 130.65, edging Strongsville by .1. The top five teams and top 12 individuals in the all-around competition and on each apparatus advanced to districts.
As expected, Brecksville dominated the sectional with 148.125 points. Berea-Midpark (135.75), Massillon Jackson (132.275), Stow and Strongville also advanced to districts.
Stow performed very well on the balance beam, taking third place in the rotation with 32.45 points and also had solid rotations on floor exercise (fourth, 34.45) and vault (34.3, fifth).
It was the uneven bars where Stow struggled, finishing sixth with a score of 29.05.
Individually, Stow was led by sophomore Peyton Balawander, whose all-around score of 35.435 was good for fifth place -- and tops among non-Brecksville gymnasts. Brecksville senior Tessa Phillips won the individual all around with a score of 37.525.
Balawender has a consistent day, as she qualified for districts on all four apparatuses. Balawender finished eighth on vault (9.025), eighth on uneven bars (8.6), sixth on balance beam (8.8) and 11th on floor exercise (9).
Meanwhile, Stow senior Sara Kasper just missed qualifying in the all around. She finished in 13th place with a score of 34 points, just .05 behind Jackson's Karen Hastings for the final qualifying spot.
Kasper scored big on the vault, as her score of 9.25 tied Hastings for fifth, and scored well on floor exercise, taking eighth place with a 9.175. Kasper just missed qualifying on balance beam, taking 13th place with a 8.73.
However, Kasper struggled on uneven bars, as her score of 7.2 cost her a shot to advance in the all around.
The district meet was scheduled to take place Feb. 25 at West Geauga, but results were not available at press time. The top five teams and top 17 individuals in the all-around competition and on each apparatus advance to the state meet.
The state gymnastics meet will take place March 3 and 4 at Bradley High School in Hilliard.