By John Goralski
Southington gymnasts launched themselves across the vault in perfect precision to set the tone for the Class L championships and carried that momentum onto the bars. On Saturday, Feb. 23 the Lady Knights held a comfortable lead after two events, but it all came crashing down as one-by-one the Lady Knights slipped off the beam.
First-year coach Kaitlyn O’Donnell gathered her gymnasts in a huddle halfway through the rotation, but even that couldn’t stop the bleeding. Lady Knight gymnasts fell six times in five beam routines and their 0.65 point lead vanished into an almost insurmountable deficit with one event left.
“This was our first stressful situation, and it was my first time coaching in such a stressful situation. I think it was just our nerves that got to us today,” said the coach. “Beam makes the meet. It’s hit or miss. We train it really hard, but today just wasn’t our day.”
It looked like Southington would have to wait another year to regain their position on the Class L podium. Or would they?
“I told them that it’s not over yet. We’re not going to win by a lot, but it’s not over yet. We had to work really hard to gain back what we lost,” said the coach. “I told them to fight, work really hard, don’t give up, and take your time. Do each thing one skill at a time. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.”
Slowly, but surely the Knights began to dig themselves out of the hole.
Erin Malone led the way. Southington’s lone senior led all Class L gymnasts in the first two events with a 9.475 on vault and a 9.675 on bars. Even with a slip she managed to score the second highest result on the beam (9.0), but Malone wasn’t finished. Her 9.5 score on floor beat her closest competitor by more than half a point.
Over four events, Malone scored 37.65 out of 40 possible points. Although there is no all-around title presented at the team event, her score edged the second best scorer by nearly two points.
“She just hit on everything. She didn’t miss, and she showed good form as always,” said O’Donnell. “She had a little bit of a fall on beam, but she tried to save it. There was just no way. She had a great day on every event. She upgraded her floor routine. She upgraded her bar routine, and that really worked in her favor today.”
Sporbert (32.875) was the only other Knight to score for Southington in four events. Nati scored on vault (9.0), bars (8.725), and floor. Rothstein scored on vault (8.85), floor, and was the only Knight to avoid a fall on beam (8.2). Lindsey Socquet continued her return from injury with scores on bars (8.25) and beam (6.85).
Still, the meet was won on the floor.
Kayla Nati (8.75) and Marilyn Sporbert (8.6) scored. Malone capped the event with the highest score in the competition, but it didn’t hurt that the second highest score was tied by Rothstein (8.85). Southington scored five of the top seven scores on floor, and the Lady Knights (35.7) won the event by more than two points over Ludlowe (33.4) and more than three points over two-time defending champion Glastonbury (32.3).
“It feels great, but we have a lot of work to do,” said O’Donnell. “I think this was kind of a wake-up call.”
Glastonbury entered the final event with a 1.575 point lead, but Southington turned the tables in the final event. Southington’s score of 138.0 won’t turn many heads in the gymnastics community, but it was enough to edge top-ranked Glastonbury (136.175) for Southington’s sixth title in nine years. Southington placed fifth out of eight teams on beam (30.85) but that was offset by a first place finish on vault (36.375) and floor with a second place finish on bars (35.075).
“It’s a great feeling, and it’s great to keep up our undefeated season,” O’Donnell said. “I think the team had a lot to prove, especially after last year. We didn’t have a great year last year, and we came out ready to go.”
With their victory, Southington qualified for one of four chances to represent Connecticut in the upcoming New England championship, but they fell to third place in the overall standings. This Friday, the Knights will compete at the State Open against Class S champ Woodstock Academy (142.95), Class M champion Daniel Hand (139.275), and Glastonbury.
The competition is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at New Milford High School.
“Without a doubt, we will do better next week. We’ve just got to train, train, train,” said O’Donnell. “We’ll get back to the gym, and we need to go to the beam…a lot.”
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