MAHOPAC, N.Y.-If you don’t believe that hard work and dedication pay off, Mahopac’s high school gymnastics team would more than change your mind.

The Indians captured their third consecutive Section 1 title after besting neighboring Lakeland/Panas by more than three points in the winter season’s final team meet on Thursday evening, Feb. 8, at Carmel High School.

“It’s especially nice for the seniors,” Mahopac coach Vin Collins said of capturing the title. “It’s difficult to win a sectional championship in any sport. But for this group of seniors to win three consecutive championships is something the team will remember for the rest of their lives.”

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Racking up 175.675 points (the team’s season high) to the Rebels’ 172.1, Mahopac saw its stars shine while each girl on the roster pulled off a successful showing.

“When I say it was a total team effort, it truly was,” Collins said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team. They really stepped up, especially some of our younger gymnasts.”

Mahopac beat out third-place Clarkstown by four points in a competitive meet all-around.

“The good thing about the team is that if somebody slips, the team can pick them up,” Collins said. “We’ve been picking each other up the whole year and we peaked at the right time. We had our best routines and vaults the last three meets of the season.”

Five Indians in freshman Jamison Castrataro, sophomore Chloe Lee, seventh-grader Lia Graap, senior Callie Johanson and senior Sydney Hughes qualified for the Section 1 team that will compete at states at Cold Spring Harbor High School on Saturday, March 3.

“Jamison, Chloe, Lia and Nicole had some of their best routines and vaults of the season,” Collins said. “The judging at this meet is really tight and the entire team executed very well.”

Johanson guided the talented bunch, placing first in uneven bars (9.275) and fourth in vault (9.2). The senior also earned second place in both all-around (36.8) and floor exercise (9.525). Clarkstown’s Alexa Henshaw bested Johanson in the all-around (37.4).

Lee sparkled on the uneven bars, reaching third place with a 9.175. The sophomore placed eighth in the all-around (34.85), and 16th in both floor exercise and balance beam. 

The freshman Castrataro placed third in vault (9.25) and made sixth on uneven bars (8.375). She was seventh best in the all-around (35.1) and took 11th place in floor exercise (8.925).

Graap turned heads by placing fifth on the uneven bars (8.525) and sixth on floor exercise (9.175). The middle-school student even nailed down ninth place in all-around competition with a 34.5.

Hughes performed well throughout, making 10th place in balance beam (8.8) and 11th in floor exercise (9.0). She took 10th place in all-around (34.2), ninth in vault (8.725), and 14th in uneven bars.

Senior Julie Santoiemma placed ninth on uneven bars (7.9) while freshman Nicole Giannetta placed 29th on balance beam as the future looks bright. Another senior, Alex Porcelli, pitched in for Mahopac, taking 39th place in vault.

“All of our kids have a passion for the sport,” Collins said. “You could see it that night. It was really something.”

Representing Section 1 at states, Johanson will compete in the all-around and Hughes is on floor exercise.

Castrataro will be in the vault and both Lee and Graap are set to routine once more on uneven bars. Last season, Section 1’s squad placed fourth out of a total of 13 teams. 

“Their dedication to the sport has made them the gymnasts they are today,” said Collins, whose team also won the Division 1 title on Feb. 5.  “That carries over to the team concept that we have. The [section] team that we have going up there should be able to improve on last year.”