H.S. Championships: All in all, a perfect day for Pinkerton gymnastics
SALEM - For the past three years, the NHIAA gymnastics championship was a comeback event for Pinkerton of Derry standout Courtney Thompson, whose career has been full of injuries.
This time, it was a straight tour de force.
Thompson and teammate Olivia Bogaczyk each won events, and the Astros smoked the 11-team field at Salem High on Saturday, capping the school's second consecutive perfect season.
All-around champion Paige Smith of Farmington won floor (9.50), beam (9.40) and tied for first with Thompson on vault (9.35). The Astros led wire to wire, racking up 142.175 points, far ahead of Salem, Londonderry, Exeter and Keene.
In the past, Thompson endured an assortment of ankle, heel and elbow injuries and never competed at 100 percent at the state meet. Though she hoped to win all-around, she left the gym with a golden NHIAA medal and bright future ahead. Her best event?
'If you went based on scores, it would be vault, but she rocked every single event,' Pinkerton coach Chelsie Veilleux said. 'She had no wobbles on beam. It was the best bar set she's had all season. Her floor was great. I don't know where she could've improved. She came in and was so mentally tough and did what she needed to do.'
Bogaczyk, who suffered from the flu last week, also went four-for-four with big performances. Bogaczyk dominated the bars, taking gold at 9.40. Freshman Brittany Capozzi and Amanda Cioli also scored throughout the day for Pinkerton.
In May, some of the Astros will compete at High School nationals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., including Thompson.
'It's been tough, getting hurt and constantly watching from the side and waiting to heal, but there has always been motivation to keep going and push forward,' said Thompson, who hopes to compete at the college level.
Thompson's left ankle pretty much always hurt during competition. She came up short on a double-back flip last year and suffered a serious sprain.
'The pain is constantly there. At this point, I'm able to just deal with it. Nobody likes pain, but I can handle it,' said Thompson, who admits to sometimes pushing herself too hard. 'I've had overuse injuries, a messed up elbow. I'd say it was mostly my fault for not speaking up and saying I needed to go to the doctor. '
Thompson spent seven years training at a Boston-area club, often working out with Olympian Alicia Sacramone, who hopes to qualify for the Summer Games in London.
'She left an impact on me and how I look at things. You learn about mental toughness, dedication and what it takes,' Thompson said.
For Veilleux, the Pinkerton coach, the afternoon wasn't complete until leaving the gym with a huge diamond on her finger. Then-boyfriend Jason Burland of Hudson popped the question, speaking into a microphone and shocking gymnasts and spectators. Veilleux said yes.
The Astros cheered and cried - as champs.