By John Goralski
Lady Knight coach Kaitlyn O’Donnell gathered her gymnasts at the end of the meet and began to prepare them for the outcome. Win or lose, she was proud of the effort. Everybody seemed to hit their routines, and that’s all that they can ask for.
The rest was up to the judges to decide.
“I had actually told them to not be upset if we lost because I didn’t know the results until the end,” said O’Donnell. “It was just two good teams going up against each other, and it really just comes down to who has the higher start values, who hits on that day, and who works the hardest.”
For the past two years, Glastonbury has dominated the rivalry. For the previous eight seasons, Southington was the winner. Over the last 10 years, the winner has gone on to claim the Class L title in all but two seasons. This was the measuring stick, and Southington entered the meet as an underdog in the CIAC rankings.
When the final scores were announced, the Tomahawks had improved their season average by almost a full point. Southington jumped up more than five points from their previous best.
The Knights improved to 4-0 with a 143.7 to 141.45 victory.
“It was a big jump from our last meet, but I knew that we were capable of doing this,” said O’Donnell. “I just didn’t know when we were going to do it.”
Once again, Erin Malone set the pace. The first-year senior set the top score on vault (9.6), bars (9.5), beam (9.6), and floor (9.35) to set the highest all-around score for the day (38.05).
“She’s very solid every week. She’s a first-year senior, but she has a lot of meet experience in general,” said the coach. “But they’re all really stepping it up, and it really works for us that we have so many all-arounders. They’re all very good, and they’re all very consistent.”
In fact, Southington scored four of the top five all-around scores. Kayla Nati (35.6) edged Marilyn Sporbert (34.85) for third place overall, and Lexi Rothstein (34.25) finished within a point and a half of both of them.
As a team, the Knights swept all four events, and O’Donnell said that she was most impressed with their work on the vault.
“We had a full vault lineup with all of our kids doing their hardest vaults,” said the coach. “That really made a huge difference with our all-around total, but we were very solid on everything. They’re a good team, too, and it was very close the whole meet.”
Even with the victory, Glastonbury held on to their ranking as the No. 2 team in the state in the CIAC point standings. On the other hand, the third-ranked Knights scored more than a full point higher than the averages of both Glastonbury (140.217) and top-ranked Woodstock (142.442), a favorite to win the Class M title.
The teams are bound to meet again at the division meet, and they could square off again at the state open. But O’Donnell wants her team to enjoy the victory… for now.
“They were so excited because we haven’t won in two years,” said the coach. “It was such a great feeling at the end of the meet. We didn’t know if we were winning. When I finally found out, the girls were so happy.”
If history is any indication, this could be the start of something special.