When it comes to the state gymnastics’ meet, Megan Mertz might have the best way to describe it.
"It was a very exciting and long weekend," the exhausted fourth-year Hudson head coach said.
In the long run, though, those two marathon days could be described in one word for Mertz and Co.: Fantastic.
The Explorers concluded another stellar season by finishing fifth with 141.85 points at the state meet, which took place last Friday and Saturday at Hilliard Bradley High School.
Brecksville-Broadview Heights won its 17th consecutive championship with 148.35 points.
Brunswick was the runner-up with 144.375 points and Thornville Sheridan (143.425) and North Royalton (142.625) placed fourth and fifth, respectively. A total of 12 teams competed.
Mertz hoped to finish a place or higher or two. Nevertheless, she couldn’t be too disappointed in the final result.
When you’ve had as many injuries as Hudson did, being one of the best teams in the state for the eighth time in 11 years is not something to be taken for granted.
Mertz sure won’t.
"I was expecting a little bit better than fifth place," she said. "However, when I saw their team scores, I could not have asked for more. We had a great meet; North Royalton had a great meet.
"I couldn’t be prouder. The girls need a break, but you don’t want to see it end."
If you’re looking for a strength or weakness that may have gone for or against the Explorers, good luck with your search.
Hudson’s line chart for the four events resembles what is very close to a straight line.
"After every event, we were in fifth place," Mertz said. "We were very consistent on every event. We had 35s across the board. Usually, we’ll have one event with a 34 and another event with a 36."
The Explorers’ first event was the balance beam. Their next three events went in this order: floor exercise, vault and uneven parallel bars.
"I liked the fact that we had bars last because that’s our best event," Mertz said.
Staying true to its reputation, Hudson finished third on the bars. Surprisingly, the Explorers placed fourth on vault, an event that had not been their best friend throughout the winter.
"At districts, I kind of screamed at them," Mertz said. "This is do-or-die. You have to land on these vaults."
Alas, Mertz’s motivational words proved futile as Hudson struggled mightily.
Not this time, though.
"Everybody landed," Mertz said. "It was a completely different group."
The Explorers also had a strong performance on the floor, which was another event that hadn’t been too kind to them prior to Friday.
Hudson got an inspirational performance from one of its highly-gifted seniors too.
Sydney DePompei, who reached the podium on the floor at the 2019 state meet, found herself in insufferable agony during the final competition of her career.
DePompei re-aggravated an ankle injury that forced her to miss several meets during the regular season.
"I give props to Sydney," Mertz said. "She was in a lot of pain. She had a rough start to the meet. She really got hurt on the floor. I was getting ready to pull her.
"I left it up to the trainers. They cleared her and told me it was up to me. My initial decision was that she was done. She looked at me and said she could go. I’m blown away at how she competed. I’m so proud of her for what she did."
DePompei and senior three-time state qualifier Julia Petty concluded their fabulous careers in Hilliard. For Mertz, they were, quite simply, two of a kind.
"They were very good at bringing the team together," Mertz said. "They did a bunch of team bonding. They wanted to go to breakfast; they wanted to go to lunch; they wanted to go to dinner. They wanted to go to basketball games together.
"At states, all of them came with spray tans. I was very blessed to have these two seniors."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.