Makenzie Castiglione and her Lancaster teammates hoped for a section title at Thursday night’s Section VI gymnastics finals at Clarence High School. With tough competition from Williamsville, Castiglione didn’t count on winning a section title on her own.
“The goal ultimately was to win a sectional title as a team and to just to come in here, have fun, do our best, and show ’em what we got,” Castiglione said.
Her squad’s first event of the night was the beam, and Castiglione placed first overall with a score of 9.45. Her top challengers from Williamsville faltered in the same event, and that aided Castiglione’s victory.
“I saw a couple routines here and there, but from what I did see, everyone looked good,” Castiglione said. “There were a few falls, but everyone did a great job today.”
She continued to place first in every event except the vault (9.075), and her best event was the floor, where her graceful performance earned a first-place 9.60.
“I’ve loved floor ever since I was a little girl, and I always just love coming out here and performing and having a good time,” Castiglione said.
Lancaster accomplished its goal as well. The team finished first overall with a score of 109.85. Alison Wojciechowski and Kelly Rose Devine joined Castiglione with top 10 all-around scores, with Courtney Ando finishing 11th.
“It was a lot of mental preparation, just hyping each other up,” Castiglione said. “It took a lot of hard work in the gym, repetition, and routines.”
Castiglione didn’t know of her individual Section VI title until the award ceremony, and it was an emotional realization for the junior as her name and 37.675 all-around score were announced.
“It’s insane,” she said amidst hugs from her teammates. “I don’t know what’s going on right now, but it’s surreal and I’m so blessed with everyone and everything in my life.”
Castiglione will be joined by second and third place winners Madison Penetrante (Williamsville North, 37.15 all-around) and Gabbi Gare (Williamsville South, 36.825 all-around), respectively, at the New York State Finals March 2 and 3 on Long Island. Section VI has won the New York State Championship the past two years.
Penetrante and Gare aren’t just competitors in Castiglione’s mind, though, and she looks forward to another trip to states with the Williamsville girls.
“I’ve been on state teams with them before,” Castiglione said. “They’re amazing competitors, and they’re gifted athletes, and we’re all friends. More than just competitors, friends.”
Also joining the top three all-around scorers will be Cali Czarcinski (Frontier), Kirsten Maybach (Clarence), Zoe Kyriakopoulos (Williamsville North), Courtney Ando (Lancaster) and Kelly Rose Devine (Lancaster).