Hewlett sophomore Ali Bezalel was the last gymnast to perform in yesterday's Nassau Individual Championship/State Qualifier at Hicksville, needing an 8.26 on vault to win the all-around competition.
Will all eyes on her, Bezalel started down the runway but stopped just before the springboard. Bezalel then regrouped, restarted her routine, and landed a stunning 9.025 to take second in the event but first in the all-around, winning the individual championship with a 35.675.
"I just felt I didn't get a good running start," she said. "I know my steps and I was off so I wouldn't have been able to do the routine."
Bezalel earned her third trip to the state championships with her performance.
"I was just thinking, I have to stick this," Bezalel said after her vault. "There was definitely a lot of pressure, I knew I had been on top for a few events so it was just amazing ."
Sewanhaka's Stephanie Jennings and Bethpage's Alexis Fraher tied for second in the all-around with a 35.175, and will also compete in the all-around at the state championships. In all, 12 gymnasts qualified for the states, with Bethpage, Plainview, Massapequa, Hewlett and Sewanhaka all having representation on the state team.
"This is a dream," Bezalel said. "I always wanted to win the all-around so it's just amazing."
Bezalel's three strongest events were vault, beam and floor.
On vault, Bezalel's score was second to Jennings' 9.050, as both completed Yurchenko tucks, which include a round-off onto the springboard and a back handspring and tuck off the vault.
Bezalel won the beam with a 9.05, and took third on floor with a 9.150 behind Fraher's 9.200 and Plainview's Melissa Kropf's score of 9.225.
Bezalel said floor was her strongest event all season, and if anything expected that to be her strongest again on Saturday. Still, her third-place finish was enough.
"Even though it wasn't my best it was a very good routine," Bezalel said.
After Bezalel, Jennings and Kropf, Massapequa junior Jessica Romano was the fourth event-winner, claiming the performance of the day on bars with a high-score of 9.50.
Romano had no trouble moving between the bars and dazzled the gym with two extended giants at the top of bars. She ultimately took a tumbling mid-air leap to the finish and landed on a dot, sparking an even greater eruption from the crowd.
"I feel ecstatic," Romano said after the meet. "I just wanted to qualify for states, I didn't expect to win [bars]."