NORTH CANTON Hoover junior Maddie Berrey has accomplished a lot already in her gymnastics career, but even she was a bit surprised by her outing at the state gymnastics championships.
Berry headed to the state meet expecting to perform well, but outpaced those aims by winning a pair of state titles in the vault and balance beam and finishing second in the floor exercise and all-around competitions. Her record-setting performance included multiple firsts in the history of the Hoover gymnastics program, leaving Berrey with plenty to remember from her junior campaign.
"I was actually a little bit surprised, but this season I was able to be more consistent than ever," Berrey said. "Anything can happen at a big meet with so many people and how loud it is, but I tried to keep it as normal as possible and I didn’t want to psych myself out or let all of it get in my brain."
Berrey’s strongest event is typically the beam and knowing her consistency there, she believed she had a chance to vie for the title. Her score of 9.475 was enough to push her past a deep, talented field and official mark her as a state champion. She bettered that score with a 9.55 in the vault and although beam "typically comes easier for me than other events," her scores across her three events were almost identical.
Add in her 9.5 on the floor exercise and it gave the junior her highest all-around score to date, a 37.5 mark that ranked her second in the standings.
Not only has Berrey competed in plenty of big meets for her school, but she has also been in quite a few on her own and said that those experiences set her up well for the state meet.
"It helps a lot and having the experience, I know exactly what to expect and I calm myself down a bit," Berrey said. "Definitely my family and my coaches help as well, and this year I was able to have some of my friends by my side and lean on them."
With her award-accented junior season now complete, the obvious question is what’s next for Berrey. She will continue to train and compete as she moves toward her senior season and admitted that seeing what she’s capable of, she is very much looking forward to her final season of high school gymnastics.
"It definitely makes me more excited for my senior season. I don’t like to get myself overly excited about it because I try to take it one day at a time, but I know people look forward to their senior year and I’m excited to see what happens," Berrey said.
What’s interesting is that, despite being a two-time state champion, Berrey isn’t 100 percent certain she will compete in college. As is the case for so many young gymnasts who have taken part in the sport since they were in elementary school, the hours necessary to reach the top and stay there can take a toll.
Berrey estimated that she spends as many as 20 hours a week practicing, traveling to and from meets and practices and competing. Sometimes, meets are three or four hours away, adding to the time commitment. While she enjoys the sport and relishes moments like the state meet, the idea of simply being a college student without being an athlete has some appeal.
With her recent success, interest from colleges is likely to continue, but for now, Berrey isn’t ready to say whether she’ll accept one of those offers and extend her competitive gymnastics career by four more years.
"I’m still deciding whether I’d like to compete in college or not. I keep going back and forth between the two and sometimes I think I might be ready to just enjoy college as a normal student," Berrey said. "Since it consumes a lot of my life, I’m ready to be a normal college student and enjoy the experience, but I also know there are a lot of pros that come with being a college athlete."
There is still plenty of time to make that decision and after a junior year that places her atop the history books for Hoover varsity gymnastics, Berrey has earned the right to enjoy her success and take in the view from the top step of the podium.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB