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Morse wins in all-Clarence finish Defending champ edges Zirna

Clarence senior captain Mike Morse was limited to just one full gymnastics meet this season due to a dislocated thumb.

Unfortunately for his competitors at the Section VI Championships, this was that one meet.

On Friday night at Williamsville South, Morse successfully defended his Section VI all-around title before an estimated 125, holding off teammate Jon Zirna by a scant 0.35 points.

Morse finished first in the floor exercise and vault and his 9.55 score in the pommel horse broke a meet record that had stood since 1991.

"Pommel horse isn't my favorite event," Morse said, "but I'm extremely proud that I did it. Repeating as sectional champion means a lot, especially because it's my senior year and I'm leaving Western New York gymnastics."

Zirna finished first in the parallel bars and rings, while Williamsville South's Cody Stumpf won on the horizontal bar.

Beyond the thrill of his second consecutive individual championship, Morse stressed how much having a team at Clarence means to him. Pointing to the other 15 members of the Clarence boys gymnastics squad, he explained: "It's taken so long to get a team. My parents and I went to school board meetings and it was finally voted in on the budget last year. Two-thirds of this team doesn't participate in club gymnastics, but they enjoy doing it so much. It's great to see."

In its two years of existence, the Clarence team has gone 20-0.

"Veterans make a big difference," coach Steve Martin said of his Red Devils' success. "Having a guy like Mike out there is like having another coach. He's shown so much leadership and helped the more inexperienced guys out. I'm really proud of Mike. He worked really hard and this is a great finish for his high school career."

Morse and Zirna won't be the only Red Devils attending next Saturday's state meet at Brockport State. Adam Cole (horizontal bar) and Joe Lysen (vault, rings) will also compete. Others going with the Clarence contingent are Williamsville South's Stumpf (horizontal bar, vault, floor) and Nathaniel Roberson (parallel bars, pommel horse, floor); Williamsville North's Brandon O'Brien (rings); Williamsville East's Spencer Kieffer (pommel horse); and Hamburg's Madison Rich (parallel bars).

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