Hannah Hughes of Middle Country performs on the vault during the Suffolk gymnastic...

Hannah Hughes of Middle Country performs on the vault during the Suffolk gymnastic team final at Whitman on Monday. Credit: Neil Miller

The Middle Country gymnastics team capped off a perfect regular season on Oct. 20, though the job was not finished.

In search of its first Suffolk team county title since 2003, Middle Country needed to come out on top Monday to further validate its superb season. It not only rose to the challenge – it crushed it.

Led by junior Hannah Hughes’ meet-best 38.475 All-Around score, Middle Country posted a season-high 176.075 team score to secure its first county crown in 20 years at Walt Whitman High School.

“We’ve been working for this for four, five years,” Middle Country coach Melissa Valentino said. “...This was 20 years in the making, and they reached it.”

Hughes, the 2023 Newsday Gymnast of the Year and the reigning All-Around and vault state champion, said she values the team’s success in a much higher regard than her personal records.

“[It means] a lot more,” Hughes said. “We deserve this, we all work so hard. For me to post these scores for the team feels great.”

Hughes was the top scorer on vault (9.600), beam (9.575) and floor (9.725). Hughes’ floor score broke a previous personal record of 9.7, which she set during Middle Country’s final meet of the regular season at Half Hollow Hills.

“Well, usually my last event I like to show up, and floor is my last event,” Hughes said. “So all I was thinking [was], ‘Do it for the team, point your toes, straighten your legs, go high and stick it.’”

Middle Country junior Madisyn Rodriguez posted the sixth-best All-Around score (35.975), finishing in the top eight of each event.

Middle Country was incredibly emotional following the victory, with tears flowing from coaches to the players.

“They became a family, they became a team working together,” Valentino said. “They brought skills they never knew they had, and they believed in themselves and they believe in each other.”

“It’s incredible,” Hughes added. “I love my teammates. We’re always hanging out, we’re best friends, all of us. There’s no one that’s excluded. We’re all together all the time.”

Smithtown finished second (175.100), powered by Bayla Goldberg, who had the second-best All-Around score (37.600) and finished first on bars (9.600). Connetquot finished third (171.275), led by Angelina Guzman, who had the third-best All-Around score (37.100).

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