ORANGEBURG - Nyack seventh-grader Amara Cunningham has accomplished a lot in her first season of high school gymnastics.
She has three first-place finishes in the all-around, and two-second place finishes. She hasn't finished lower than third.
Cunningham, vying as an independent, was third in Tuesday's tri-meet meet in which the Clarkstown, Tappan Zee and Lakeland/Panas teams competed.
But she didn't miss first place by much.
Cunningham, who scored 36.55 was edged by Clarkstown's Shannon Berrigan (36.85) who won, and by Lakeland/Panas' Leanne Castelli, who took second (36.75).
"I think I did well," Cunningham said. "Getting the score I did on vault was the best part. I wasn't expecting to get that high of a score and I didn't warm it up."
Cunningham scored a 9.85 on the vault and she did a yurchenko layout.
Nyack/Pelham/Clarkstown and Tappan Zee coach Jamie Winkler loves the poise that Cunningham has for such a young age, reminiscent of another star pupil -- former Tappan Zee star Jillian Hudson.
"Amara's a great girl to work with," Winkler said. "She's very talented and stays calm in competition. Nothing every rattles her, kind of like Jillian Hudson in that if something goes wrong for her, it doesn't totally blow the meet for her. She moves on."
Cunningham, because she's an independent didn't factor into the team scores. Clarkstown capped another undefeated regular season by winning Tuesday's tri-meet with a score of 166.95. Tappan Zee (149.05) was second. The Rebels finished third (92.4).
"It went well," Berrigan said. "It's a great group of girls. We all get along and want each other to succeed. It was a great season. But there's more left to do."
"I tried my hardest throughout the year," Cunningham said. "I'm proud of what I've accomplished so far. There's more that I want to accomplish."
Castelli, a sophomore, has been a member of the Rebels since the seventh grade.
A pair of 9.5s on vault and floor exercise highlighted her night. She also scored a 9.45 on the balance beam.
Castelli had come into the meet undefeated in the all-around.
"The season has been great so far," Castelli said. "It's my best season yet."
ORANGEBURG - Leanne Castelli of Lakeland/Panas was undefeated in the all-around this season, until being edged by Clarkstown's Shannon Berrigan in Tuesday's tri-meet with Clarkstown and Tappan Zee at Galaxy Gymnastics.
Castelli was second, with a score of 36.75. Berrigan had 36.85. Nyack's Amara Cunningham, competing as an independent, was third (36.55).
Castelli's night was highlighted by a pair of 9.5s on the vault and floor exercise. She also scored a 9.45 on the balance beam.
Her highest all-around score to date was a 37.05 on Dec. 17 in a tri-meet against Somers and Suffern.
"The season has been great so far," said the Lakeland High School sophomore, who has been on the Rebels varsity since seventh grade. "It's my best season yet."
Lakeland/Panas finished third in the team standings Tuesday with score of 92.4. Clarkstown won (166.95), capping another undefeated regular season. Tappan Zee (149.05) was second.
Castelli has stepped into a leadership role on the Rebels.
"My first year I had Lauren Ayello, Brianna Nimphius, and Sam DiBenedetto as my captains," Castelli said. "They always knew how to keep the team's spirits high. I've always looked up to all of them as role models."
Castelli has also benefited from her experiences teaching kids at Dynamic Gymnastics in Mohegan Lake.
"I realized how much they look to older gymnasts," Castelli said. "So I try to be the best leader I can be for my teammates."
The post-season begins next week. Castelli is two years removed from being a vault specialist on the 15-member state team.
"I would love to make states in the all-around," Castelli said. "But I know there are a lot of talented gymnasts in the section, so if not, I'd want to make vault again because it's my favorite and most consistent event. I'm going to train harder and harder, and make new goals every day."