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February 15. 2014 8:14PM

NHIAA: Salem's Whittaker top gymnast

Pinkerton Academy of Derry gymnasts celebrate winning the team championship Saturday in the NHIAA Meet of Champions at Salem High School. The team earned a cumulative score of 138.425 points. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

SALEM - A Salem High School sophomore who has been a gymnast "for as long as I can remember" is the state's newest all-around Champion.

Nina Whittaker earned an overall score of 36.250 during Saturday's NHIAA Gymnastics Meet of Champions, held at Salem High School.

Whittaker took third place, with a score of 35.825, in last year's meet but said she never imagined she'd take home the top score this year after a challenging season.

She had shown great promise since her first high school meet back in December 2012, when she put up a total score of 34.65.

During the 2013 Meet of Champions, she attained the second-highest vault score, 9.225.

Nevertheless, the 2013-14 season had been a struggle - until Saturday.

"I've dealt with a couple of injuries this past year," Whittaker said, visibly overcome by her victory. "But I've been working through them."

"This is very exciting, for sure," she added.

Salem Coach Kyle Redmond described Whittaker as a force to be reckoned with, noting that the gymnast fares impressively in all areas. "She doesn't have a weak point," he said.

Whittaker earned the second-highest vault score, 9.3, and achieved first place in both the bars and the floor exercises on Saturday.

Her floor exercises score was 9.350, just slightly lower than last year's 9.4 score, which also earned her top honors.

In the team standings, Salem High fell short of its goal of defending its title, placing second to rival Pinkerton Academy of Derry. Bishop Guertin of Nashua, last year's runner-up, placed third on Saturday.

Pinkerton coach Chelsie Burland said she couldn't be more proud of her girls.

"It's been a great season, and we've just continued to improve, meet after meet," Burland said.

Londonderry High School's Madison Britting took top honors on the vault with a score of 9.3.

Bishop Guertin's Caroline Nichols, the second leading overall gymnast with a cumulative score of 35.925, also earned the top balance beam score, 9.425, and took second place in floor exercises with a score of 9.2.

Pinkerton's Brittaney Capozzi earned second place in both balance beam and bars, earning scores of 9.1 and 8.925, respectively.

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