When Megan Mertz took the head gymnastics coaching position at Hudson High School, she was determined to track down an old friend.

Mertz, who previously was the head gymnastics coach at Mentor High School, wanted to get in touch with Macy Lori as soon as possible.

"Macy stood out for me," Mertz said. "I remembered seeing her at the state meet when I was coaching at Mentor."

Lori, a senior who qualified for the state gymnastics meet as a sophomore, did not compete for the Lady Explorers last season.

Mertz wanted to do everything she could to lure the talented senior out of "retirement."

"I got on Twitter, found Macy and messaged her," she said. "I introduced myself to her and asked her if she was thinking about doing gymnastics this year. I told her I would love to have her back."

Lori accepted Mertz's recruiting pitch.

To say that it turned out to be the best of both worlds would be a vast understatement.

Lori concluded an amazing comeback to the sport she loves by finishing fourth on the balance beam at the 2017 state meet. The competition took place March 4 at Hilliard Bradley High School.

She finished in a tie with Sylvania Southview's Alex Below with a season-high score of 9.25 points.

Lori also helped lead the Lady Explorers to a fourth-place total of 139.9 points in the team competition March 3.

Lori decided to give up gymnastics last season to focus on competitive cheerleading.

Thanks to Mertz's powers of persuasion, Lori couldn't stay away this winter.

"I knew Megan used to coach Mentor," Lori said. "That sparked my interest. I thought, why not? I figured it would be super fun for my senior year."

The "fun" had to be put on a hold for a little while.

That's because Lori injured her back during the preseason and was unable to compete for several weeks.

"I used to have a stress fracture in my back a year ago," Lori said. "I re-injured it. It was definitely detrimental."

Suddenly, Lori's comeback story appeared to be on the verge of shattering into pieces right before her eyes.

And that didn't sit well with the senior.

"Macy was out for a really long time," Mertz said. "She wanted to come back and she kept asking me if there were ways around it.

"I told her that it was doctor's orders and she wasn't allowed to come back until she was cleared. She had the drive in her the moment she walked into the gym the first time."

Lori finally got the go-ahead to compete later in the season.

She didn't miss a beat.

"It was amazing how quickly she picked everything back up after taking a year off," Mertz said. "Her all around kept going up and up and up. Every meet, she got better."

Lori, who also helped Hudson reach the state meet during her freshman year, knew she couldn't return to elite status overnight. On some days, such a thought was harder to accept than others.

"It was very slow and very difficult at first," Lori said. "I had to get my strength back and I had to figure out how to do the routines I used to be able to do.

"Thankfully, coach Megan and [assistant coach] Bridget Livengood helped me along the way."

Lori got her patience tested once again at the state meet.

She had to wait several hours to perform since she was the last athlete to compete March 4.

"She had to sit around for six or seven hours," Mertz said. "She was in and out of the gym. She went into it with some confidence because she knew it was the last time she would perform.

"She wanted it to be something to remember. She went out with a bang."

Although she did not compete the previous season, Lori was named the team's captain this winter. It was a role the teenager embraced right from the beginning.

"I enjoyed being around a great group of girls and a great new coaching staff," Lori said. "I had such confidence in the girls to be able to pull through. I'm so proud to be part of such an amazing team."

Mertz certainly appreciated all the time she spent with her incredibly gifted senior.

However, Mertz's time with Lori was certainly bittersweet.

"There was some crying at the meet," Mertz said. "I'm so sad that I only got one year with her. I knew she would be the backbone of the team.

"She's a 4.9 student and she's always positive and always happy. She always wanted to work. She is any coach's dream."

As for Lori, the script to end her career couldn't have been written any better.

"It's a huge exclamation point to my senior year," she said. "In all honesty, I don't think it could have worked out better than it did. It was a great season."

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