Maria Esposto retired from more than a decade of club gymnastics this year, but her high school career is alive and thriving.
The Panther Creek junior won her second straight Southwest Wake Athletic Conference individual all-around title with a 38.25 score Friday night at the Performance Sports Center. She recorded the highest all-round total of the three conference champions to compete in an efficiently run three-way meet that included athletes from the Cap-8 and the Greater Neuse River conferences.
“I felt I had a lot on my plate with some hard classes my junior year,” explained Esposto, who carries a 4.62 grade-point average, of dropping club gymnastics and its travel demands. “But I’m having fun with high school gymnastics. We have more girls on our team this year.”
Panther Creek was unbeaten in the regular season, but Fuquay-Varina won the conference meet team title with 111.2 points. The Bengals were led by sophomore Chiana Charrington as the runner-up in the in the individual all-around at 37.65.
Never miss a local story.
Panther Creek, which was missing senior Gabrielle Labrozzi while she competed in an out-of-area club meet, was second with 109.95 points. Defending champion Green Hope also was without key athletes competing in club gymnastics and finished third with 106.2 points.
Esposto finished with a 9.6 in the vault, 9.5 in the bars, 9.55 in the beam and 9.6 in the floor exercise. She had the high score of the meet in the floor and tied Green Hope sophomore Grechen Mackie with the high scores in the bars and beam. Charrington recorded the high score in the vault.
Fuquay’s Tori Manning was third in the all-around, 37.4; Holly Springs’ Madison Resavy was fourth, 37.35; and Cary’s Katie Beaman was fifth, 36.55
A year ago Panther Creek won the state small school title in competition based on the number of athletes rather than enrollment. The Catamounts only had four gymnasts in 2015, but there are 11 on the squad this season.
“We have a lot of people moving into our school’s area and eight of them turned out to be freshmen gymnasts,” Panther Creek coach Krystal Kramer said. “We only lose one senior off this year’s team, so the future is exciting. We have a lot of talent on this team. We have some solid girls.”
Although Esposto gave up club gymnastics, she may find time for a couple more high school sports. She’s a natural for diving since her father, Nunzio Esposto, is Duke’s head diving coach.
“The only difference is you’re going in with your head instead of her feet,” she said.
But she started in dance and then gymnastics before she tried diving.
Also, Panther Creek’s track coaches want her to try the pole vault in the spring. Gymnasts often convert easily to the pole vault since they already adept at flying through the air.
“Everyone is trying to get me to come out,” she said. “I might give it a try.”