By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Three Shrewsbury High School senior gymnasts were chosen to represent Massachusetts at the 2016 National High School Gymnastics Association (NHSGA) Senior Showcase recently held in Fort Meyers, Fla. Karina Hopping, Ally McNeil and Maddie Konz were among 22 senior gymnasts selected from the top competitors in the north and south state sections to be on this elite team.
According to the NHSGA website, the Senior Showcase Invitational is a competition between states that are able to bring the “best of the best.” All three Shrewsbury girls made the finals and medaled in their individual competitions while the Massachusetts team placed first in the nation.
All three young ladies have devoted much of their young lives to practice and competitions.
“For me personally, I had a goal to make nationals from the time I was in sixth grade,” said Hopping. “My mother was a high school gymnastics coach and brought members of her team to nationals. That’s what inspired me.”
Hopping plans to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design.
For McNeil, her passion started early.
“I started gymnastics when I was four,” she said. “This is a perfect way to top off my gymnastics career, and all my hard work paid off. After competing against all the Massachusetts girls for many years, it was great to see how close we all became and how we pulled together to get a win at this national competition.”
McNeil placed seventh in the vault at the meet and is bound for James Madison University in Virginia in the fall.
The seniors comprised a core of veteran gymnasts on the undefeated Shrewsbury High team during their regular meets, their third year in a row of winning seasons. The team went on to place second in sectionals, third in states, and sixth in New England, a very impressive record in a very competitive sport. This kind of record involves personal sacrifices and frequent injuries.
“We made gymnastics popular in our school,” said Hopping. “I dislocated my elbow and eventually came back to have a strong season. This year was particularly difficult for the team; we had a lot of people doubting us, but our winning record and strong season proved we had what it takes to be champions.”
Konz, who plans to attend the University of Connecticut, acknowledged, “I struggled with injuries from seventh grade to my sophomore year in high school, so being able to finish out really strong means a lot to me because I didn’t give up when I was so close to being done.”
Konz dislocated her left knee three times and needed reconstructive surgery. She also fractured her back and spent a year in a back brace.
“I won bars at States for the second year in a row and that was huge,” she said. “Going to Nationals was my big finale. It was a stress-less meet because I knew I could go and just have fun.”