West Xtra: Injury can't derail Moon's captain in gymnastics

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Moon Area High School senior co-captain Holly Zucchero epitomized what coach Amy Caprino was talking about when she praised her team's overall effort moments after the Tigers won their third consecutive WPIAL gymnastics championship Saturday at their gym.

The Tigers held off longtime rival North Allegheny to win the title with 145.825 points. North Allegheny posted 145.200 points. Pine-Richland was third at 141.450.

Zucchero competed in all four events: the balance beam, the uneven bars, the vault and the floor exercise. Her best effort came in the Advanced Division's floor exercise when she finished in a tie with teammate Jessica Schreiber for seventh place with 9.325 points. She did not place in the top 10 in the other three events. Just taking part in the meet, however, should have earned her a medal as she was competing with a sprained right ankle.

Although there are no medals awarded for courage, Zucchero took plenty of pride in the championship her team won. Every one of the 34.750 points she earned to finish 13th in the Advanced Division helped her team to win the title.

She injured her right ankle when she was warming up prior to a pep rally for the team on Friday at the school, but never gave any thought to pulling out of the competition.

"I landed on [the ankle] sideways and rolled it," she said. "It was right before [the WPIAL championships], and it was not the way I wanted to go out, but at least I competed."

Zucchero was in a considerable amount of pain, and she agreed that the ankle needed to be examined by a medical professional. She was adamant about one thing, however.

"If it's not broken, I'm competing," she told her mother, coaches and teammates. "I don't care if it's sprained. I don't care what happened."

When informed that she'd sustained a sprained ankle, that gave Zucchero the green light to go ahead and compete.

Still, there was the matter of the wait between each event. In gymnastics, the wait can be a considerable one as there were three divisions competing in the sport's four disciplines.

So, while she was waiting to compete in her next event, Zucchero was walking around the expansive Moon Area High gymnasium with her right ankle sporting a bag of ice. When she competed, her ankle was heavily taped and she also wore an ankle brace.

Zucchero is familiar with injuries. When she was in eighth grade, she sustained a broken left ankle. She sprained her right ankle previously when she was a sophomore.

Of the four events, Zucchero said she had the most difficulty with the floor exercise because it was her last event.

"If I would have started on floor, [the pain] wouldn't have been as bad," she said. "But [balance] beam was pretty rough."

She was on the beam right before she competed in the floor exercise.

"I changed my routines on beam and floor because it hurt really bad," she said.

Throughout the day, Zucchero was constantly taking off the brace and having her ankle retaped when it wasn't being iced.

"It was hurting the whole day, but there was no way I wasn't going to compete," she said.

The state meet will take place Saturday, also at Moon Area. The state meet will be at the middle school gym. The WPIAL meet took place at the senior high gym. Zucchero is going to practice this week, but hasn't decided if she will compete in the state meet.

"If it's like this next week, I'm sure I'll compete," she said. "I don't think it will get any worse, so I'm going to try."

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