For two of the last three years, Wantagh's Brianna Quinn tried to make it to the state qualifier, only to be sidelined by injury. Almost appropriately, her return to the big meet Monday night was slightly painful.
"But,'' she said, "it was all worth it.''
Despite flying off the high bar and splitting the inside of her lip in a fall, Quinn was otherwise flawless, earning a meet-high 36.725 in the all-around at the Nassau gymnastics state qualifier at Hicksville High School.
With her score, Quinn will headline the Nassau contingent at the state meet March 2 at Smithtown East. It's the senior's second trip to the championship, and her first since she qualified as an all-around in eighth grade. Monday was her first appearance in a state qualifier in four years.
"It was nerve-wracking, but once I started practicing, I calmed down,'' Quinn said. "Then I just wanted to get it over with. Whatever happens, happens.''
Quinn earned a meet-high 9.50 on her vault, a Yurchenko, and was the only gymnast to break a 9 on beam, with a 9.225. She came in first on floor with a 9.20, and that bar routine wasn't so terribly ill-fated after all: she got an 8.80. Joining her on the all-around are Stephanie Jennings, the Sewanhaka District sophomore making her third straight appearance in the state meet, and Plainview seventh-grader Jessica Lopez.
"I knew it was going to be tough competition,'' said Jennings, who attends Elmont and finished with a 35.975, including a 9.05 on bars. "It feels great to get second because at first, when I saw everyone warming up, I didn't even think I'd make it to states because everyone was so good.''
Along with the top three all around, Nassau will be represented by the next three finishers in each event. The event specialists are Alyssa Firth (floor, beam and vault); Alexis Fraher (floor, bars); Jamie Kaletcher (beam) and Sarah Ciresi (bars, vault) of Bethpage; Plainview's Melissa Kropf (floor); Sewanhaka's Liz Giannatasio (beam); Hicksville's Lauren Cecco (bars), and Valley Stream's Jessica Betts (vault).
"This is very, very exciting,'' said Lopez, who earned a 35.575 in the all-around. "Being in seventh grade, this is my first time and I'm just really excited."
Lopez's show-stopping Yurchenko pike earned her a 9.425 on vault, while her floor exercise earned her a 9.10. Even her beam routine, in which she fell on her back handspring connection, couldn't get her down.
"I think after I fell, I tried to forget about it and keep going,'' Lopez said. "Keep going like nothing happened.''
Unintentionally echoing Quinn's words, she indicated the prize was worth the stumble. "This is just awesome.''