They've had injuries throughout the season. And they reached their final destination by the skin of their teeth.

None of that mattered to the Lady Explorers.

The Hudson gymnastics team is among the best in the state yet again.

The Lady Explorers capped another stellar season with a third-place score of 141.025 points at the Division I state meet Feb. 28 at Hilliard Bradley High School. It was Hudson's fourth trip to the state competition in the last six years.

Brecksville-Broadview Heights captured its 11th consecutive state title with 144.625 points. Mentor, the reigning Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division champion, was the runner-up with 141.475 points.

"It's hard to put into words just how excited I am about what the girls did," Hudson head coach Randi Chepke said. "They beat all the odds - injuries and what not - and had one of their best all-around meets. They hit on every event, one bigger than the next. I just couldn't be any more pleased or proud."

Hudson, which grabbed the fifth and final spot at the West Geauga district meet the previous week in Chesterland, put it all together when it really counted.

"We didn't have a great district meet last week," Chepke said. "It rattled us. It's not a comfortable spot to head into the state championship.

"Historically, the way teams stack up in our northeast district is usually how they stack up at the state meet. We wanted to prove we were better than that, but we didn't imagine we'd come that close to taking the runners-up spot."

The Lady Explorers started things off on the floor exercise. There was a small problem: Hudson was the first team to perform.

"Being the first team up on the floor isn't the most coveted spot at the state championship," Chepke said. "It's nerve-wracking to start on what's usually our best event."

Fortunately, the Lady Explorers did what they needed to do.

Junior Mackenzie Miller, who had a huge meet for Hudson, led the way with a 9.075. Also contributing to the team score were sophomore Jenni Spencer (8.725), freshman Macy Lori (8.675) and sophomore Megan Urbanic (8.65).

"Everybody gave it everything they had," Chepke said. "It was highlighted by Mackenzie's usual stellar delivery."

The next event was basically a make-or-break opportunity. And it was an event the Lady Explorers hadn't come close to mastering throughout the season.

"Vault has been a weakness of ours all year," Chepke said.

Hudson fine-tuned some things in practice and Chepke was hoping such adjustments would pay huge dividends in Hilliard.

Fortunately for Chepke, they certainly did.

Once again, Mackenzie Miller, who competed on vault for the first time in more than a month, led the way with a score of 9.175.

Spencer was next with a score of 8.75 and sophomore Katie Goosmann contributed an 8.725. Urbanic also scored an 8.7.

"Every girl in the lineup delivered some of their best vaults of the year," Chepke said.

After that, Hudson's confidence soared and the momentum carried over to the uneven bars.

Mackenzie Miller scored an 8.975 to lead the way and Lori was next with an 8.8. Also faring well for the Lady Explorers were Spencer (8.7) and senior Jordan Miller (8.625).

"The girls are steady Eddies on the uneven bars," Chepke said. "They delivered their usual, solid routines.

"It was all we hoped for and it gave us a slight lead over Mentor and a bigger gap between us, Strongsville and Magnificat."

After the girls' performance on bars, Chepke knew her team was going to finish in the top five.

"We realized that it was becoming a real race for the runners-up spot," she said. "Weirdly, that realization brought a sense of calm to the girls in the beam lineup."

Senior Riley Skinner delivered in her final team performance of her stellar career with a team-leading 8.95 on the balance beam.

Mackenzie Miller was next for the Lady Explorers with an 8.875 and Lori (8.85) and Urbanic (8.8) also contributed to the team score.

"Jordan started us off with her most solid performance yet -- setting the stage for the rest of the girls," Chepke said. "They hit six-for-six stuck routines in the most important meet of the year.

"It quite literally brought us all to tears. They finished knowing they had done the best they could and their best was pretty darn good."

Mentor did just a little bit better to grab the runner-up spot. But no one from Hudson was disappointed.

"The girls proved they deserved to be there," Chepke said. "They worked for it and they never gave up and in the end, as a coach, I can't ask for anything more.


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