The Gold Medal Gang; The 2005 Lady Knight gymnasts were the best in school history

“We brought an excitement to the meet and to the media,” said Knox. “It’s funny for me to see all the other teams at club meets and high school meets these days. They get together for a cheer before the meet. They cheer on the sidelines during the meet. They clap. They pound the mat and cheer. We started all of that.”

That’s why heads turned when the Knights entered the state meet. Could this group of public school girls live up to the hype? Critics chalked the scores up to easier scoring at the regular season contests. Sure, the Knights could beat a smaller team by 50 points, but could they do it in the pressure of a state meet?

They were about to find out.

Southington set new state records in every event but floor, and Kristy Dougan set a state record in the all-around with 38.225 points. Jessica Gianatti won vault (9.8). Dougan won bars (9.6) and beam (9.75). Yvette Mirando didn’t set a state record, but she won the event easily with a 9.5.

As impressive as the top scores were, it was Southington’s depth that was truly unparalleled. Lady Knights scored five of the top eight vault scores. Southington scored the top five scores on bars and the top six on beam. Their worst event was floor where Lady Knight gymnasts scored five of the top eight scores.

“The unique thing was that we had our seniors—those kids with the most experience—going up first or second in our lineup because we had so many qualifiers,” said Knox. “Typically, they’re toward the end because they’re the strongest athletes, but it helped to have them go in the beginning. They led off with good scores. They were consistent, and that pushed our scores even higher.”

When the dust settled, Southington’s 151.525 team score shattered the previous state record by more than five points. Only 16 scores count toward the team score, but the Knights beat Hall by more than 13 points. If the next four Southington scores in each event were grouped to form a second team, the Knights would have still beaten Hall by more than five points.

Knox’s preseason prediction came true.

“We had enough kids in our lineup to make two teams, and we would have finished first and second. We had kids that didn’t even compete for us, but they would have been an all-star on another team. It was pretty exciting,” said the coach. “Yes, I really talked a good game about what we were going to do, but we had no idea we were going to be that good.”

The Knights went on to dominate the postseason. Dougan still ranks as the only gymnast to sweep the postseason with all-around victories at the Class L meet, the state open, and the New England championship. Dougan (all-around) and Gianatti (vault) won titles at the state open. Southington went on to win the New England title with meet records in scoring (151.125), the all-around (Dougan, 38.275), and vault (Gianatti, 9.75).

The team launched a dynasty as the Knights went on to capture six of the next eight Class L titles and three consecutive New England titles. The girls went on to break most of their records in 2007, but the 2005 team launched the dynasty.

It was no surprise when the Southington Sports Hall of Fame selection committee chose the 2005 Lady Knights as one of two teams to be inducted into the Class of 2013. On Thursday, Nov. 14, they will be honored in an induction ceremony at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville

“I really believe that they deserve it,” said Knox. “We took a sport that wasn’t in the limelight, and we created attention that had never been done before. People that had never even watched gymnastics before came out to see our meets. All through town, we were treated like local celebrities. It was great for the school and great for the sport. I’m proud of those girls.”

To reserve tickets, contact Jim Verderame at (860) 628-7335. To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.

File photo Members of the 2005 Lady Knight gymnastics team surround the program’s first New England championship trophy.

File photo

Members of the 2005 Lady Knight gymnastics team surround the program’s first New England championship trophy.

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