Portsmouth freshman competes in state gymnastics meet

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PORTSMOUTH — Portsmouth High School freshman gymnast Mackenzie Brow may not have placed among the top finishers at this year’s high school individual state championship meet, but considering her age and her recent recovery from an injury, her performance was above par.

Like many of the gymnasts at Saturday’s event, training and competition is a way of life for the 14-year-old. However, the rigors of training can take its toll on a still-growing body, and that can result in injury.

“She’s been out of the gym for at least a year,” said Mackenzie’s coach, Cybil Pacheco.

Suffering an injury to her hip, Mackenzie was forced to take a break from the sport as a club gymnast, but decided to try competing with her high school team.

“I don’t train at a club gym,” she said. “I just wanted to get back into it.”

Even at her young age, Mackenzie is already a gymnastics veteran, having competed in state competitions before. Still, returning after a year-long absence and going out in front of the judges can be daunting.

“I’m kind of nervous,” she said after finishing her uneven bar routine as part of the all-around competition. Next, she said, would be the balance beam.

“The vault is my strongest event. I got an 8.2 or an 8.3 in that,” she said. “I like the floor the best, though.”

There, Mackenzie said, she takes the elements she’s learned from Ms. Pacheco and other coaches and puts them together in a choreography that includes difficult compulsory moves that demonstrate her strength and poise. Her performance on the floor exercises was awarded an 8.05 by the judges.

“A lot of these girls have that ache to do something they enjoy,” Ms. Pacheco said of the camaraderie among the competitors. “(Mackenzie) really enjoys the sport.”

With three more years in front of her high school athletic career, Mackenzie’s return could be a benefit to the Portsmouth team.

“Being on a high school team may have given her a boost of confidence,” Ms. Pacheco said. “She’s a hard worker and a really good kid.”

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.