As she watched her team perform moments after the lunch break was over, first-year Hudson gymnastics head coach Megan Mertz was horrified.

The Lady Explorers struggled mightily on the bars' competition and their season was on the verge of coming to a disastrous end.

"I don't know what happened," Mertz said. "We had a great warm-up. I think the pressure got to them."

Fortunately, there was still one more event waiting in the wings. And everything was right again with Hudson.

Despite some nerve-racking moments, the Lady Explorers are heading back to a familiar destination.

They qualified for the district competition.

That became the case after Hudson finished fourth with 137.75 points at a sectional meet Feb. 20 at West Geauga High School in Chesterland.

The top four teams advanced to the district competition, which was scheduled to take place Feb. 25 at West Geauga. Results were not available at press time.

Mentor won the 12-team sectional title with 144 points and West Geauga (140.75) and Chardon (139.55) placed second and third, respectively.

The bars, which took place after all the teams took an hour-long break, turned out to be Hudson's weakest event. The Lady Explorers were in second place after the first two events, the floor exercise and the vault, were completed.

Hudson dropped in the standings after the bars' competition and then pulled it together on the last event, the balance beam.

"I was worried our performance on bars would carry over to beam," Mertz said. "The beam is a hard event. You have to stay on that beam. We became a team on the beam. They picked each other up and we were able to qualify."

Four Lady Explorers advanced in the individual competition.

Senior Macy Lori placed ninth in the all-around competition with a score of 34.825 to qualify for the district meet and she also advanced on the floor exercise with a fifth-place score of 9.2 and the balance beam with a 10th-place score of 9.1. The top 12 gymnasts in each event qualified for the district competition.

"Macy had an awesome meet for the most part," Mertz said.

Junior Abby Petty earned a trip to the district meet with a 10th-place all-around score of 34.2. She also qualified on the floor exercise with a 10th-place score of 9.025, which was a season high.

"Abby started off really nice with an 8.775 on vault," Mertz said. "She has been so consistent all season. I'm very happy for her."

Sophomore Lina Ikhlef gave Hudson three district qualifiers on the floor exercise. She took seventh with a score of 9.125.

The other Lady Explorer to advance was sophomore Hannah Teed, who grabbed the 12th and final spot on the bars with a score of 8.25.

"I give Hannah a lot of credit," Mertz said. "She has had an awesome bar routine all season. She was doing a different skill and she completely lost her grip. She missed the bar and she almost got a little whiplash.

"It didn't stop her. She did a one-hander to save herself. That was pretty impressive."

The Hudson gymnasts received a team sportsmanship award by the Ohio High School Athletic Association during the meet.

"It was voted by all the coaches and based on the whole season," Mertz said. "The girls always rooted for each other and other schools. And if they had a bad event, they would pull it together."

Mertz admitted her team has been dealing with some difficulties in recent weeks.

"I think they got burned out," she said. "They are such a hardworking group and they are the smartest team I've ever had. The lowest GPA [grade point average] is 4.2

"I think that was part of the problem. Since they are always doing school work and are always in the gym, the season caught up with them. I told them that there are only two weeks. I saw some life again (Feb. 20)."

The top five teams at the district competition in West Geauga advance to the state meet, which is scheduled to take place March 3 and 4 at Hilliard Bradley High School.

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