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New Canaan gymnasts win big at YMCA national meet

Three New Canaan natives traveled with the Darien YMCA gymnastics team to the YMCA National Gymnastics Championships meet in Tampa, Fla., from July 1-5 and returned with top finishes. Senior Darien gymnasts Christina Brandt, Hayley Holzinger, Alissa Chan, Stephanie Klokiw and New Canaan's Lauren Fusek were honored for completing their YMCA gymnastics careers at the Senior Recognition ceremony. More than 2,000 gymnasts from across the country marched in the opening ceremony at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before the competition began.

Team awards were only handed out for entrants in the Level 8 and the Championship, while individual awards were given for each division. The Darien team performed well, placing ninth in the Level 8 team competition and sixth in the Championship Level (9 and 10).

Darien gymnasts Samantha Aparicio and Jessica Freiheit both qualified for the individual Level 8 finals, where Aparicio placed third in the all-around and Freiheit took 11th.

In the Championship level individual competition, Stephanie Klokiw placed 1fourth, Hayley Holzinger 1fifth and Alissa Chan 2first. Klokiw also qualified for the floor and vault finals, placing seventh and eighth respectively.

New Canaan native Holly McGoldrick proved to be the top performer on the Level 4 team, winning the all-around for the middle age group with a score of 37.60. She also claimed the bars title, placed second on vault and beam and tied for third on floor with Christina Pizzani. Pizzani placed second on bars. Skye Greene won second on floor and all-around, fifth on bars and sat atop the vault with a score of 9.6. Nicole Thompson and Lindsey Hall tied for fourth on beam, while Lizzie Canelli took fourth on bars.

In the youngest Level 4 age group, Tori Ware placed fourth All-around and on floor, second on beam and fifth on bars. Leah Wall, of New Canaan, was second on floor and third on beam. Megan Cutler earned fifth on beam and Paige Domenici was fourth on bars. In the senior age group, Kerry McDermott was fourth on beam. Also competing for Darien were Sommer Schmidt, Kate Wolters, Sofia Pye, Dillan Aysseh, Alexa Carrero and Lily Fairleigh.

Darien was also represented at Levels 3-7, where gymnasts competed in multiple sessions by level and age group. The Level 3 team was led by Gabriela Pye, who won the all-around with a score of 36.4 for the youngest age group in the session. Gabriela also placed second on beam and bars, fourth on vault and fifth on floor. Twin sister Caterina Pye earned silver in the all-around and won the vault and beam titles with scores of 9.55 and 9.15. Nima Rahbar completed the all-around sweep of the top spots, taking third in both all-around and vault, second on floor, fifth on bars and six on beam. Melina Cardini placed fourth on beam, seventh on floor and sixth all-around. Emma Kelly tied with Gabriela for second on beam.

In the middle age group, Lucy Collins was awarded second for all-around and vault, third on beam and floor and fourth on bars. Megan Mitchell took fourth in each of all-round and floor, second on beam and fifth on vault. Jane Tortorella placed sixth on beam and floor and seventh all-around. Alison Enters was seventh on bars, while Olivia Stemp took seventh on beam. Melanie Vernal earned sixth on vault. Audrey Ridder and Sophia Imbrogno also competed for Darien.

At Level 5, Sydney Steele placed sixth on beam in the younger age group. Lana Schmidt was fourth in the all-around and on beam, bars and floor in the older group. Tess Keating placed sixth on beam. Also competing at Level 5 were Dorothy Browning, Maeve Degulis, Stella Kamensky and Octavia Molkenthin.

Three gymnasts represented Darien at Level 6. In the junior group, Juliana Jordao placed fourth on beam and fifth on floor. In the senior group, Sarah Petti won the bars title with a score of 8.95. Lauren Fusek also competed for Darien in her final YMCA meet.

Gianna Cardini led the Darien trio competing at Level 7, placing fifth all-around in the junior group, as well as second on floor and third on beam. Kajsa Lundeen placed sixth on beam in the senior group, where Toni Cardini also represented Darien. The Darien team was coached by Vladimir and Valentina Kovalenko, Yury Vasilyev, John Schwartz and Erin Hunter.

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