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#PrepTalkPreview: Girls gymnastics – Can Kyriakopoulos three-peat?

2016 champions: Williamsville North took the Section VI team title with a 109.87, over four points higher than the score that won it the title in 2015. Lancaster came in second with a 105.40 and Frontier third with a 103.65. North sophomore Zoe Kyriakopoulos repeated as all-around champion with a 37.97. She finished first on the floor (9.57), vault (9.62), and bars (9.47). Frontier’s Cali Czarcinski finished first on the beam with a 9.55.

2016 top underclassmen: Zoe Kyriakopoulos-10 (Williamsville North), Madison Penetrante-10 (Williamsville North), Cali Czarcynski-8 (Frontier), Gabbi Gare-10 (Williamsville South), Trinity Tartaro-10 (Orchard Park).

Three-peat for Kyriakopoulos?: If you don’t know how to spell that, you should probably learn. The junior goes for three straight Section VI all-around titles this year. She finished as the all-around runner-up in seventh and eighth grade before capturing the title in her first two years of high school.

"She's very powerful but also graceful," Section VI co-coach Joe Buscaglia said.

Madison Penetrante will be her teammate's main challenge. (John Hickey/The Buffalo News)

Kyriakopoulos sprained her ankle this summer and had to repair a subluxating tendon. Subluxation occurs when a joint begins to dislocate. However, North coach Lisa Miller said it shouldn’t set her star back.

“All summer long she’s been working hard to come back from it,” Miller said. “She’s pretty much recovered from it now.”

Miller said the junior is striving mainly for a career-high on bars this year. She came in first in sectionals and states in the event, with scores of 9.47 and 9.55, respectively. The one even Kyriakopoulos didn’t win at sectionals last year was beam, finishing behind Czarcynski and Penetrante.

Could Penetrante challenge?: Kyriakopoulos’ North classmate will likely be her biggest challenge in three-peating. Penetrante finished .35 points behind her teammate in the all-around last year en route to a second-place finish. She beat Kyriakopoulos on the beam, finished third on bars and vault and fourth on floor.

“Both of them have been training together over the summer,” Miller said. “ … Between the two of them, high scores for both of them.”

Is there any stopping Williamsville North?: In short, likely not. The defending Section VI champs return the area’s top two gymnasts and beat Lancaster by more than four points in sectionals last year after the Spartans improved significantly on their team score. Look for more of the same in 2017, with a noted strength on the floor for Miller’s bunch.

“We have a lot of dancers this year so I’d say a lot of strong floor routines,” Miller said. “We’ve had, in the past, where our team was more gymnasts over dancers, now we have a lot of dancers that went over to intense camps over summer and are coming back with all these skills to their floor routines. So we’re looking forward to the girls showing those skills off on the floor.” 

Can Section VI sweep at states again? Last year was the first that one section swept first place in all events. Kyriakopoulos won floor and bars, Williamsville South’s Gare won vault and Penetrante won beam. Kyriakopoulos’ 9.85 on floor broke a seven-year record held by Section XI’s Brittan Tassar by .25 points. With all three girls returning, don’t be surprised if Section VI sweeps first place again.

A Frontier surprise?: Frontier's Czarcynski was the only first-place finisher at sectionals not named Kyriakopoulos. An injury prevented her from competing in states last year, but she could challenge for that third spot in Section VI with the likes of Gare.

Who qualifies for states?: The top three finishers in the all-around, as well as the top three in each individual event (excluding the all-around top three), earn a chance to compete in the state championships.

Championship time: Section VI championships take place Nov. 2 at Clarence High School. States aren’t until March 2 and 3 at Cold Spring Harbor High School in Cold Spring Harbor.

Who is going to be Prep Talk Award Player of the Year? Two-time winner Kyriakopoulos is the favorite, followed by Penetrante.

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