In what has turned out to be a highly-decorated career, Julia Petty had one glaring omission on an otherwise sparkling résumé when she reached a certain gymnasium Saturday.
That would be a trip to the podium.
Let’s just say her gymnastics’ bucket list is now complete.
The standout Hudson senior concluded a spectacular career with a fifth-place finish on the uneven parallel bars at the state individual competition Saturday at Hilliard Bradley High School.
The standout senior, a three-time state qualifier, finished with a score of 9.1. The top six performers from each event earned a trip to the podium.
Petty fell a hair short of reaching the podium during her sophomore year. She placed seventh on both the bars and the balance beam at the 2018 state meet.
Petty also just missed on the bars last year after placing ninth.
This time, though, the resilient senior refused to be denied.
"It felt really good," Petty said. "I wasn’t expecting it. When I heard the sixth-place score, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I could be on this year.’"
Explorers head coach Megan Mertz had her doubts, as well. Especially when she saw some of the ridiculously high scores other gymnasts were achieving.
"I look around and I see 9.4, 9.5, 9.6," Mertz said. "Her 9.1 was great, but it didn’t look like podium material. When they announced the sixth-place finisher, she went nuts."
Petty also finished 13th in the all-around competition with a score of 36.5. She scored a 9.3 on the balance beam, a 9.125 on vault and an 8.975 on the floor exercise.
Not too shabby for one of the greatest gymnasts in school history, huh?
"I was really satisfied," Petty said. "It was a really good meet. It’s just really great to represent the school. I met a lot of great people."
Gymnastics isn’t exactly a sport for the feeble creature. Since there is so much stress on numerous body parts, injuries are pretty much the norm for a typical gymnast.
Petty was no exception.
"I’ve coached for 10 years and I’ve never had somebody with so many injuries as she had," Mertz said. "She refused to give up. She had a great meet."
Petty had quite a dramatic ending to her career. Her final event became a bit of a fiasco because of — surprise — an injury.
"She cracked her ankle on vault," Mertz said. "She went down hard. Fortunately, you do two vaults and they take your best one. I asked her if she wanted to go again and she said, ‘I need to land one.’"
Once that decision was made, Petty did her best Kerri Strug imitation. Here’s a hint: It has something to do with the then teenager’s gutsy performance at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
"She went down as fast as she could," Mertz said. "It was one of her best vaults of the season. She landed on one foot, saluted the judges and then went down."
Petty was motivated to give gymnastics a try when her older sister Abby competed.
It’s safe to say she was quite intrigued.
That’s because the younger Petty has worn a leotard for at least a dozen years.
All good things must come to an end, though. And Petty is more than happy to ride off into the sunset.
"I’ll miss it a lot," she said. "I’ve done it my whole life. It’s a good time to say goodbye."
Two of Petty’s teammates also competed.
Sophomore Laurel Gomersal finished 18th with a score of nine on the beam. Junior Alyssa Bezdek, a two-time state qualifier, captured 31st on the floor with a score of 8.725.
"Laurel had another great meet," Mertz said. "She went from a beam-off at sectionals to doing so well at districts. For her, it was a confidence boost to make it out of sectionals. She wanted to prove she deserved to be there and she did.
"Alyssa had a cut on her toe. I told her she needed stitches. I watched her routine and sure enough, her toe got stuck. She had such a great meet. It was a stupid, little cut. She didn’t have time to heal."
Petty and Bezdek were team captains during the season. Like Petty, Bezdek made the most of her opportunity as one of the team’s guiding lights.
"She is such a great leader," Mertz said. "She has probably grown the most this season. It was great watching the way she worked and communicated with other people. She wants to do well, which is a great thing to see."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.