Katie Bowe entered last year's state gymnastics tournament with jitters. Then a seventh-grader in her first year on Ward Melville's varsity team, the experience was completely foreign to her. But a year later, greater maturity and confidence made all the difference.

"This year, she really came out and said, 'I think I can do this,' " coach Caryl Crasa said. "Last year, she was a little tentative. But now there's no fear for her."

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Bowe, who attends Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School, scored a 9.45 on the beam to narrowly edge Nyack's Amara Cunningham (9.425) and Ward Melville teammate Cydney Crasa (9.4) to win her first gold medal at the state tournament.

"Last year, I was the youngest on team. I was kind of the baby of the team but now I'm more experienced and I was less nervous," Bowe said. "I had one year under my belt so I knew what it was like. I was ready for it this time."

Bowe finished tied for 13th with an 8.950 in the bars at last year's state tournament. For someone who has been involved in gymnastics since she was 5 years old, winning gold was special.

"It was pretty incredible. Something I'll always remember," she said. "But hopefully I can top it next year."