Hannah Hughes of Middle Country gets congratulated by her coach,...

Hannah Hughes of Middle Country gets congratulated by her coach, Melissa Valentino, after her performance on the balance beam in the NYSPHSAA gymnastics state championship meet at Kenmore West High School in Buffalo on Saturday.  Credit: James Escher

Middle Country’s Hannah Hughes vaulted her way up the leaderboard — literally and figuratively.

The Newfield freshman proved to be the best in the state on vault with a personal-best score of 9.70 in the event during Saturday's gymastics state tournament at Kenmore West High School in Buffalo. She executed the Yurchenko layout to near perfection.

"I was just trying to run fast and stick the landing," Hughes said. "I stuck it, and it was such an incredible feeling when I saw my score. I couldn’t believe it. I knew that there were still more girls to compete after me, but I was hoping that I could stay in first and I did."

Hughes also totaled a 9.40 on floor exercise in her first event of the state championship and added a 9.20 on bars and a 9.425 on beam to finish with the second-highest all-around score (37.725).

"I practice five days a week for four to five hours a day with my club team to try and improve my craft," said Hughes, who placed second at the Suffolk individual championship in November. "My Mom has been driving me to meets and practices since I was 4 years old and was able to be there to watch me compete today. She was very proud of me and it made me happy to see her so excited."

Grayson Gall, an eighth-grader from Section III's New Hartford, won the all-around title with a score of 38.025. She placed first on bars (9.625) and beam (9.650), second on floor (9.600) and 12th on vault (9.150). Gall helped Section III win the team event with a score of 185.50. Suffolk was second (181.250) and Nassau placed fifth (175.725).

Roslyn’s Shani Sirota made her third appearance at the state tournament and placed eighth in the all-around (36.725), fourth on vault (9.475) and fifth on floor (9.425). Sachem’s Riley McPartland was ninth in the all-around (36.400), tied for seventh on floor (9.350) and finished eighth on beam (9.350). Suffolk individual champion Alexandra Melchiona of Connetquot placed 10th in the all-around (36.275) and finished fifth on vault (9.40).

"I was trying to just have fun and take in every moment, knowing that this was the last time I was competing in high school," said Sirota, a senior. "We had such had a great team and showed a lot of support for one another. It was a great experience and I put my all into it."

Syosset teammates Allie Jacobs and Leah Chin each finished within the top 15 in the all-around. Jacobs placed 11th (35.675) and Chin was 13th (35.450). Middle Country’s Abigail Walters totaled a 9.40 on beam to place seventh.

"I was lucky enough to have two girls qualify for the state meet this year and both of them nailed their beam routines and perfectly stuck them today," Middle Country coach Melissa Valentino said. "Hannah wanted a spot on the podium and made it a point to achieve her goal. Her determination is very clear, and I believe this is not the last you will see from her."

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