There are many who assume focus is portrayed through a stoic expression. A calm, reserved demeanor is what locked-in concentration looks like . . . right?
Well, Commack's Lauren Gomes shattered these stereotypes Friday with her performance at the Suffolk individual gymnastics championship at Babylon High School, where she won the all-around with a score of 37.325 to punch her ticket to the state meet at Shaker High School in Latham on Feb. 27.
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In between event rotations, the senior gymnast could be seen dancing and singing along to Beyonce's "Love on Top," laughing with teammates or cheering on the competition. And when it's her turn: a level of focus so resilient, there's nothing that can break it . . . all the while with a smile.
"I've learned that I'm supposed to be happy, just dance, have fun, because that's when I do my best," Gomes said.
The skill and ability have always been there for Gomes, fourth-year Commack coach Joanna Judge will tell you. But it's her surging confidence and mental strength that have landed her at the top of the podium.
"I don't think she fell off beam once this entire year," Judge said. "A lot of times people think focus is like angry, but it's not. She's having fun but keeping her eye on the prize."
Gomes also won the all-around at Tuesday's Suffolk team championship to lead Commack to a title.
"It's been one heck of a week," she said. "I'm just proud to be representing my school and my team."
Other state qualifiers included Nicole Jackson (Half Hollow Hills), Skye Harper (Bay Shore), Amanda McNelis (Commack), Kaleigh Pensavalle (Lindenhurst), Cassie Bergin (East Islip), Claire Dempsey (Ward Melville) and Hayden Davidson (Bay Shore), who won vault with a 9.550.
"I love the event so much," Davidson said, "I do it just for fun."
Naja Curtis (Half Hollow Hills), Skylar Haas (Kings Park) and Kerin Spadaro (Bay Shore) qualified as alternates for the state meet.
Bay Shore's Mattea Gravina (36.350) and Commack's Jacklyn Dolitsky (36.300) finished second and third in the all-around, respectively, to earn a trip upstate.
"It's an incredible feeling," Gravina said. "I was a little nervous, honestly, but you just have to try and block it out."
Having nine other gymnasts from Suffolk cheering her on at the state meet should help with the nerves.
"I think with each other's support," Gravina said with a smile, "we'll be OK."