HILLSBOROUGH — After battling an injury for just about all of her senior season, Emily Shugan put it all together Saturday afternoon.
Shugan won the vault competition en route to the All-Around title and helped the Bridgewater-Raritan High School gymnastics team to the team championship at the NJSIAA Central II Sectional at Hillsborough High School.
The Panthers edged Hillsborough 109.475-108.750 to claim the team title, with Shugan leading the way.
Shugan’s score of 9.600 was tops on the vault and her total of 37.175 earned her the All-Around top spot, advancing her to next weekend’s Individual Finals at Montgomery High School.
“I was not expecting much; just to get enough to move on and compete at states,” Shugan said. “I was just hoping for a 36, so for me to pull everything together and win All-Around is surprising to me. Vault was a complete surprise to me, because I just started training for it on Friday.”
Shugan finished second on the uneven bars with a mark of 9.475, just .025 behind Hillsborough’s Natalie Onerdko and sixth on the floor exercise after posting a 9.375. Bridgewater-Raritan head coach Julie Zaneto praised Shugan’s resiliency after the meet.
“She’s been battling this injury, so she hasn’t been able to compete in All-Around this season. But she pushed through it and I really couldn’t be happier with her outcome,” Zaneto said. “She’s one of the toughest gymnasts I’ve ever coached and she’s very dedicated and focused and she did superb.”
Ayana Lee also helped the Bridgewater-Raritan assault, finishing second in the vault and fifth on both the bars and floor, with scores of 9.025 and 9.400, respectively. Lee just missed the cutoff to qualify for the Individual Finals, scoring 35.975, .025 short of the required 36.000 to move on. She’ll be going with the rest of her teammates to the Team Finals, which is a rewarding achievement for Zaneto and her squad.
“We came in here trying to be as consistent as possible and obviously the goal is to make it to states, so we just everything one event at a time,” Zaneto said. “I didn’t know we won until the very end when they announced it, which was a bit of a surprise, not because we’re not capable of it, but it was certainly something that I didn’t expect today.”
Host Hillsborough missed out on the team title by less than a point after a strong performance from Onderko. The sophomore won the bars with a score of 9.500 and finished second on the beam after posting a 9.425. Onderko finished fourth in the All-Around competition and advanced with a mark of 36.300.
“Natalie is only a sophomore and she didn’t even do high school gymnastics last year,” Hillsborough head coach Beth Murrin said. “She was really excited to participate this year and she’s been battling an injury a bit this year. But she was awesome today. This week she started to feel a little bit better and she did a phenomenal job. We added some skills to every event and she just handled it all great and enjoyed the experience.”
Sarah Pallay also showed well for the Raiders, winning the floor exercise with a 9.675 and finished sixth in the All-Around with a mark of 36.100.
South Plainfield’s Nicole Sottiriou claimed the day’s final event on the beam, scoring a 9.550 to cap another stellar performance. Sottiriou’s score of 36.175 was enough to advance her into the Individual Finals, even with a fall on the bars.
TEAM SCORES: 1. Bridgewater-Raritan (BR) 109.475; 2. Hillsborough (H) 108.750; 3. Hunterdon Central (HC) 108.025; 4. East Brunswick (EB) 105.375; 5. South Brunswick (SB) 105.350; 6. Montgomery (M) 105.325; 7. Somerville (S) 103.475; 8. South Plainfield (SP) 102.875; 9. North Hunterdon (NH) 71.800.
ALL-AROUND: 1. Emily Shugan (BR) 37.175; 2. Morgan Rybinski (SB) 36.825; 3. Natalie Kowalik (EB) 36.725; 4. Natalie Onderko (H) 36.300; 5. Nicole Sottiriou (SP) 36.175; 6. Sarah Pallay (H) 36.100; 7. Jessie Vallorosi (HC) 36.050; 8. Kira Solt (H) 36.025.
VAULT: 1. Emily Shugan (BR) 9.600; 2. Ayana Lee (BR) 9.525; 3. Sarah Pallay (H) 9.475; 4. Nicole Sottiriou (SP) 9.450; 4. Renee Mallick (M) 9.450; 6. Stephanie Reid (HC) 9.350.
UNEVEN BARS: 1. Natalie Onderko (H) 9.500; 2. Emily Shugan (BR) 9.475; 3. Natalie Kowalik (EB) 9.450; 4. Morgan Rybinski (SB) 9.250; 5. Ayana Lee (BR) 9.025; 6. Kira Solt (H) 8.825.
BALANCE BEAM: 1. Nicole Sottiriou (SP) 9.550; 2. Natalie Onderko (H) 9.425; 3. Maeve Stewart (HC) 9.325; 4. Jessie Vallorosi (HC) 9.150; 5. Faye Lawrence (BR) 9.100; 6. Genevieve Suplee (BR) 9.075.
FLOOR EXERCISE: 1. Sarah Pallay (H) 9.675; 2. Nicole Sottiriou (SP) 9.600; 3. Stephanie Reid (HC) 9.525; 4. Audrey Warner (M) 9.450; 5. Ayana Lee (BR) 9.400; 6. Emily Shugan (BR) 9.375.