The medals, about a dozen in all, jumped around Jenny Kaufman's neck with every step and bounced noisily as she made her way to the winners' podium.
It was quite the ruckus for the quiet Long Beach junior with the affinity for loud stunts.
Kaufman, Long Island's top performer, placed third all-around at the girls gymnastics State Championship at Cold Spring Harbor Sunday with a 37.350. Reigning champ Jillian Hudson (Section I) took first with a 37.850 and Bay Shore's Olivia O'Connor came in fourth with a 37.050. Suffolk finished third in the team competition with a 178.975; Nassau was fourth with a 173.450.
After the meet, Kaufman, surrounded by her Section VIII teammates, demurred when asked about the experience. She competed on vault and bars at last year's tournament, but has since upped her game to become one of Nassau's most credible all-around threats.
Doing well, she said, "feels good" and her accomplishments left her "surprised." She added, with a hint of self-deprecation: "Sorry. I don't talk much."
No matter, said Nassau coach Kim Rhatigan. "She doesn't need to talk. She just needs to compete."
And compete she did. Kaufman returned to the layout Yurchenko for her vault, a repeat of the state qualifier performance that earned her a 9.7 last Tuesday. Worth a 10.0 if performed perfectly, it netted Kaufman a 9.45 and second place overall in the event. She took a 9.275 on the bars for fifth place.
"I could see she had it in her," Long Beach coach Billy Muirhead said. "The skills were there, the ability was there, the potential has been there and now it's the self-confidence."
It was a sentiment echoed by Section XI coach Robin Thomas, who began training Kaufman at her gym, New Image, two months ago.
"Her confidence level is getting better and better," Thomas said. "There's no fight with her. She embraces the teaching. With a kid like that, you want to go to work."
Kaufman was a bright spot in what began as a trying day for Thomas. Two of Suffolk's gymnasts, Alyssa Burns and Tara Greco, had to be scratched because of a stomach virus. Burns, an all-around, competed in only two of her events. Suffolk rallied to its third-place finish behind a strong showing from O'Connor, who took first in bars with a 9.7.
"We were all really scared," O'Connor said about losing Burns and Greco. "We didn't know who was going to do what and some of us haven't done certain events in a while, but it worked out."
Despite sickness, Burns, of Commack, earned a 9.375 on bars, good enough for third. Sachem's Stephanie Citro also came up clutch. She took over Greco's spot on floor for a 9.02. Paris Ryder (Half Hollow Hills) got 9.4.
In her third trip to states, O'Connor, a freshman, once again proved she will be a formidable opponent for years to come. She earned a 9.15 on floor and a 9.25 on vault. Still, she said, "I knew I could have done better; I made a few mistakes."
Thomas said that it's been impressive watching O'Connor progress. "She's coming into her own," Thomas said. "She knows she can compete at the top."
Far from showing complacency with her developing skills, O'Connor was already looking to the future. "I'm young," she said. "I've got three more of these things hopefully."