All-Area Gymnast of the Year: Emily Shugan, Bridgewater-Raritan

Bridgewater-Raritan's Emily Shugan is the Courier News Gymnast of the Year. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Bridgewater-Raritan’s Emily Shugan is the Courier News Gymnast of the Year. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

The night before the Somerset County Tournament Championship in early October, Bridgewater-Raritan High School gymnast Emily Shugan got the go-ahead to resume competing in all-around.

Shugan had been limited with an ankle injury since August, and was working out with her club coach on the eve of the SCT. It was at that time when Shugan began going through her routines on all four events again, in preparation of helping Bridgewater-Raritan down the stretch of the season.

“I did routines the night before counties and I didn’t expect to do well at all,” Shugan said. “I got to the meet and Coach [Julie] Zaneto said I was only going to do bars and beam. She told me that I could do vault if I felt up to it.”

After notching her best score of the season on the vault, the first event that the Panthers competed on that night, Shugan began to believe she made the right choice.

“On bars, I did much better than I expected and the meet was going pretty well, so I did beam and I figured I’d just do it to do it, and it was the best beam routine I had ever done,” Shugan said. “I saw I had a good all-around going, so I asked if I could do floor. I hadn’t planned on competing on it, so I had like 30 seconds to warm up and it didn’t go well at all, I fell on my back and it was terrible.”

After winning the bars (9.500) and beam (9.550) and coming in second on vault (9.375), Shugan was awarded a first-place tie for the all-around title with Hillsborough’s Sarah Pallay.

“It was a complete surprise for me,” she said. “I was basically getting back into the game and I won in my first time doing all-around all season.”

Shugan also finished first at all-around in the NJSIAA Central II sectional meet and qualified for the state individual championships. She is the Courier News Gymnast of the Year.

Shugan, who said she’s headed to the University of Pennsylvania to continue her gymnastics career, made it to the state individual meet all four years at Bridgewater-Raritan. She said she had no nerves at big events, instead reveling in the excitement of being with all of the other elite gymnasts in the state.

“Everyone brings out harder skills and it’s fun to see everyone’s upgraded routines,” Shugan said. “Going into the individual events, I take the pressure off a bit and I just go in and have fun.”

She certainly had fun on Nov. 9, as Shugan’s all-around score of 37.175 won the Central II sectional. Shugan won the vault (9.600) and handled the pressure as well as she had hoped.

“Everyone wants to win that meet, and for me, sectionals is the one meet over the course of a season when you can determine who can handle pressure well and who can’t,” she said. “You have one chance to get to states and you see the craziest results, but I put it all together and it was exciting when they called my name as the winner.”

A 14th-place finish in the final meet of her high school career in the individual competition, with a fifth-place performance on the bars (9.500), capped a great career for Shugan last month.

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