MONTGOMERY — For Holmdel High School senior gymnast Kendall Valentin, her four seasons have been all about progression.
As a freshman, the NJSIAA Individual Championships were filled with nerves, as she fell on one of her routines, as she came home seventh. But in the last three seasons, she’s improved to fifth, second and now first in the All-Around competition, as Valentin won Saturday’s title with a score of 38.275, narrowly edging Bishop Ahr’s Julianna Drapkin, the 2012 champion, by 0.050.
Valentin didn’t win an individual event Saturday, but placed in the top eight in all four events to emerge as the all-around champion. She finished second on the uneven bars (9.625), tied for third in the floor exercise (9.600), fifth on the vault (9.550) and eighth on the balance beam (9.450).
“I’m just really happy. I hit all four routines and consistency is my thing I guess,” Valentin said afterwards. “I fell during my freshman year and it’s just been a steady improvement since. It’s really great to get all the way to the top and finish first this year. I was so close last year and I wanted it so badly this time. I knew that my time would come and I worked harder and did whatever I could to try and win. Just being able to know that all my hard work, as a senior, paid off is great.”
Valentin got a little bit of help on the balance beam, as she got a second chance to do her routine after two of the four judges didn’t look up from their scoresheets to see her compete. Valentin fell during the first try, but the judges offered her a second chance to go and she took advantage.
“The rules allowed me to go again and they asked if I wanted a re-do,” she said. “I didn’t fall and hit my routine the second time.”
Valentin said that she’ll be continuing her gymnastics career at Eastern Michigan University on a full scholarship next fall.
Her Holmdel teammate, Tess Zientek, finished fourth in the all-around (37.900) and won the balance beam (9.600).