Gymnastics: Streaks continue reign as Markus stands out

Led by all-round winner Heather Markus, Saratoga Springs wins its seventh straight Section II girls'
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Heather Markus took a grand leap forward, Saratoga Springs teammate Breanne Clark did better than she thought and the Blue Streaks added to their Section II championship meet record with a seventh straight team title Thursday night at Shaker High School.

In a continuation of her fine jun­ior season, Markus became Sar­atoga’s seventh all-around winner, scoring 35.40 points to beat out Shenendehowa’s Kylee Teague (34.90) and Clark (34.475). Clark believed she had placed fourth, and broke down after the meet.

“To go to the states as an all-arounder is such an honor,” said the team captain, who was still crying afterward, but with tears of joy. “I was trying to do the math in my head, and my parents even thought I was fourth. I’m so happy right now. This is all I wanted.

“I’m a senior, and I had to go out with a bang.”

Markus certainly did that, scoring a first-place 8.65 on her vault to finish the evening’s competition and seal her all-around title. Markus also placed first on the uneven bars (8.70) and floor (9.350), with Clark taking the top spot on the balance beam (8.85).

“Heather and I have been working quite a bit on upgrading every routine,” said second-year Saratoga coach Debbie Smarro, whose team, behind Markus and Clark, went unbeaten in the Suburban Council.

Markus scored a lot while moving up from her third-place showing in 2007. Clark took second all-around last year behind grad­uated Guilderland standout Dana Goodknight.

“I did want to place higher, but it wasn’t something I wrote down or anything,” said Markus, who also topped the field at last week’s Section II All-Around Meet. “It was in my head.”

Markus equaled her bars score from last year’s sectionals, and surpassed each of her other scores, with her most impressive performances coming on the floor and vault. She went out by nailing a difficult Tsuk­ahara vault, a new add­ition to her repertoire this season.

“The first time I hit it in a com­petition was at our invitational meet [on Jan. 12],” said the 16-year-old Markus. “It’s a mix of different things. You’ve got to have speed, the right bounce off the board and the right bounce off the table. It all came together.”

And for the 14th time since 1981, and for the seventh straight time, it all came together for the Blue Streaks, who had the highest team score on every routine en route to 169.000 points. Guilderland (158.025) placed second for the second year in a row, edging out Bethlehem and Shenendehowa.

“We had a very good night,” Smarro said. “We’ve got a lot of young kids, and the big thing was them controlling their nerves. They did that.”

“The key was staying calm,” Markus said. “We were a little shaky here and theere, but I’m so proud of them all.”

All 15 members of the Saratoga team qualified for the sectionals, but due to injuries, 13 competed as the Blue Streaks continued Section II’s greatest dynasty since Shaker’s run of five straight crowns from 1991-95. Five Blue Streaks finished in the top nine in the all-around, and 10 of them were among the top 21.

“This team is amazing. No other team had all of their kids here,” said Clark. “We pulled together.”

Teague placed third on the bars (8.575) and floor (9.225), and tied for third with Markus on the beam (8.70).

Markus, Teague and Clark will lead Section II’s team at the March 1

state meet at Carmel High School. The top three scorers on each event, excluding those three, also made the state meet team. Among them was Guilderland freshman

Alexa Patnaude, who placed second on the bars (8.65) and tied for fifth on the vault.

“It was only her fifth meet of the season. She was out with a fracture in her heel, and she was cleared to compete about a week ago,” said Guilderland coach Brenda Goodknight. “She came up really big for us.”

Amber Finch of Shaker and

Rachel Forando of Bethlehem also qualified for the state meet in two events. Bethlehem’s Chandler Smith, Saratoga’s Alyssa Carlson, Rema

Bianco and Rachel VanEarden, and Guilderland’s Kristi Russell and Cat Diamante also made the state team.

Team scores

Saratoga Springs 169.000, Guilderland 158.025, Bethlehem 157.500, Shenendehowa 157.375, Shaker 154.700.

Individual events

Vault — Heather Markus (Sara), 8.65; Rachel VanEarden (Sara), 8.525; Breanne Clark (Sara), 8.45; Kylee Teague (Shen), 8.40; Alexa Patnaude (Guild), 8.375; Amber Finch (Shak), 8.375; Maggie Muzio (Shak), 8.375; Rema Bianco (Sara), 8.325; Julia Martens (BC), 8.325; Stephanie Bateman Shak), 8.325.

Uneven bars — Markus (Sara), 8.70; Alexa Patnaude (Guild), 8.65; Teague (Shen), 8.575; Bianco (Sara), 8.225; Rachael Forando (BC), 8.20; Clark (Sara), 8.025; Martens (BC), 7.625; Lindsey Hartmann (Sara), 7.55; VanEarden (Sara), 7.40; Alyssa Carlson (Sara), 7.325.

Balance beam — Clark (Sara), 8.85; For­ando (BC), 8.75; Cat Diamante (Guild), 8.75; Markus (Sara), 8.70; Teague (Shen), 8.70; Finch (Shak), 8.60; Tori Tepedino (Shen), 8.50; Chandler Smith (BC), 8.50; Aubrey Reardon (Sara), 8.475; Megan Dority (BC), 8.45.

Floor — Markus (Sara), 9.35; Kristi Russell (Guild), 9.25; Teague (Shen), 9.225; Clark (Sara), 9.15; Carlson (Sara), 8.85; Smith (BC), 8.80; VanEarden (Sara), 8.65; Forando (BC), 8.625; Reardon (Sara), 8.60; Bianco (Sara), 8.575.

All-Around — Markus (Sara), 35.40; Teague (Shen), 34.90; Clark (Sara), 34.475; Forando (BC), 33.625; Patnaude (Guild), 33.40; Finch (Shak), 32.775; Bianco (Sara), 32.575; VanEarden (32.550); Carlson (Sara), 32.325; Tepedino (Shen), 32.20.

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