By Dave Dyer
---- — Injuries are a fact of life in gymnastics at any level and they could be a major factor in determining Saturday’s New Hampshire state meet at Salem High School.
Three-time defending champion Pinkerton would have been an overwhelming favorite to repeat, but the Astros have been hit hard by injuries.
Two-time Eagle-Tribune MVP Olivia Bogaczyk, who was third at New Englands last year, has been banged up all year and will only compete in the bars competition. Sophomore standout Amanda Cioli suffered a stress fracture in her back last week and is lost for good.
Nevertheless, the Astros have great depth and still should compete for the title, with Salem and Bishop Guertin their top challengers.
Junior standout Kaylee Pacunas, who didn’t compete last year because of lingering injuries, leads the way for Pinkerton. She won the all-around in every meet but one.
Moreover, rising sophomore Brittany Capozzi will more than capably fill the second all-around spot. Her best events are usually the beam and floor exercise.
Junior captain Jess Lord, who has returned from an ACL tear, has been a consistent performer all season on three events and captain and classmate Kylie Lowell is typically one of Pinkerton’s high scorers on beam and floor.
Also, freshman Jackie Bogaczyk has seen action in the all-around and is ready to upgrade her routines at state.
Because it’s undefeated, and defeated Salem by five points Jan. 31, Pinkerton enters Saturday’s competition seeded first, but coach Chelsie Veilleux knows that defending the crown will not be easy.
“Gymnastics is a sport where you have one day, one shot, one opportunity to perform the best routine you can,” said Veilleux. “Everything else you accomplished all season, doesn’t factor. Our team has been faced with more challenges then I could ever have imagined.
“The title could be anyone’s — its up for grabs. It will come down to who hits with the least amount of deductions in execution.”
Salem is led by standout freshman Nina Whittaker and returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star Kadie Tommasi, who is regaining her form since recovering from early-season injuries. Sam Cloutier stands out on the vault.
The morning session is at 10 a.m. The top teams will compete at 2 p.m. They are Pinkerton, Salem, Bishop Guertin, Londonderry, Goffstown and Keene.