They say that beauty is pain, and in Sarah Ciresi's case, the elegance of her powerful vaults and the precision of her hard landings only serve to underscore the blasts of pain whenever her ankle hits the mat a little crooked, or with a little too much force.
Over Christmas break, Ciresi, a Bethpage gymnastics captain, sprained her right ankle competing with her club gym. To end her bar routine in Thursday night's's Conference I meet -- a 169.80-166.95 win over Plainview JFK -- the senior braced her toes on the high bar, propelled her body through two turns in the air and stuck her toe on a front dismount.
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Thump went her feet on the mat. A 9.65, went the judges -- a career high and the highest bar score in Nassau this season, according to coach Kim Rhatigan.
"This was the meet to put up those high scores,'' said Ciresi, who added that the pain wasn't gone. "But a performance like this boosts my enthusiasm, and I hope to score like this in the counties.''
Plainview (7-3), competing without top gymnast Jessica Lopez (inflamed back), nonetheless held its own. Led by eighth-grader Miranda Lund, who won the all-around with a 35.85, the Hawks earned their highest team score since last month. Lopez is expected back for the county championship next week.
Lund, who has mastered a bevy of new, advanced skills in Lopez's absence, earned a 9.30 on beam and a 9.40 on floor. Even better, when she nearly slipped off the high bar, banging her thigh and inciting gasps, she righted herself instantly.
"I did that before and I got off the bar and they wouldn't let me finish,'' Lund said. "So I said, I'm going to finish . . . I always try hard.''
Lund wrapped up the routine with the double back dismount she fully learned only two days ago, good for an 8.65.
For Bethpage (9-0), Alyssa Firth, a ninth-grader and a consistent threat, came in second with a 35.80, including a meet-high 9.0 on her Yurchenko pike, and a meet-high 9.45 on floor. Ciresi came in third all around with a 35.40, with an 8.70 on vault.
"It hurt a lot, especially because I did three tsuk [vaults] today in warm-ups and I landed short on them,'' Ciresi said. "But it's my last year and I want to look back and say Bethpage was undefeated, so I might as well put up with it.''
Painful? Sure. Beautiful? You bet.