The Perfect 10; Kristy Dougan launched a dynasty

By John Goralski

Sports Writer

File photo

File photo

steadied herself on the diving board and waited for the signal from officials. She had her back to the pool. Fans and coaches held their breath. Dougan hadn’t performed a single dive as she rehabbed her fractured ankle during the regular season, but here she was at the state meet, ankle taped, and waiting patiently.

Nothing could slow Southington’s all-American diver. Over the course of her high school career, Dougan suffered shoulder injuries that typically strike baseball players, fractures, bumps, and bruises, but when the competition began Dougan left it all behind.

With a small skip she vaulted into the air and flipped one and a half times in a perfect pike position before slipping into the water with barely a ripple across the water’s surface. Her ankle was taped and throbbing, but Dougan was nearly perfect. Despite obstacles that would have ended most careers, Dougan was on her way to her second state open title.

“She never let anything faze her. In diving, one little thing can throw you off, but I never saw that happen one time in her whole career,” said former Lady Knight swimming and diving coach Jay Dubinsky. “She was mentally tough. Her dives were extremely clean, but it all came from her dedication, her focus, and her hard work in practice.”

Nobody worked harder than Dougan, and nothing could stop her when competition began. She battled through surgeries and fractures that would have stopped most athletes. She overcame obstacles that would end most careers, and posted better scores with injuries than her competition could do with perfect health.

And Dougan did it with a smile and a wave to the judges.

“I had to become more creative with my routines, and the struggle made me appreciate the sport even more,” she said. “It was like a new project for me. As time went on I became more comfortable and my scores reflected that. I felt a good amount of pressure but just kept calm and did my best time in and time out.”

Southington High School was already established as a leader in women’s sports when Dougan entered the high school in 2004, and the club gymnast never set out to be a pioneer. In fact, she opted out of high school gymnastics as a freshman because that’s what top level gymnasts were expected to do.

But when Hall edged Southington in a controversial finish at the Class L gymnastics championship at the end of her freshman year, Dougan decided to throw her hat into the ring. The following year Dougan joined the Knights for the high school season, along with an influx of club gymnasts, and the state never knew what hit them.

In a sport measured by tenths and hundredths, the 2005 Lady Knight gymnasts shattered the team record at the state meet by five points. They cruised past their opposition in the state meet by double digit points, and Dougan led the way. As a sophomore she rallied for the all-around title at the Class L championship, the state open, and the New England meet—a feat that has never been duplicated by any other Lady Knight.

“If you made a mistake, Kristy took advantage of it,” said former Lady Knight gymnastics coach Byron Knox. “One of the things that Kristy brought to the team was her consistency. She didn’t have that high-flash, superdynamic routine, but she made you work if you wanted to beat her. She was the epitome of good defense. She wasn’t going to give anything away.”

When her opponent slipped up at the state open by missing a pass on the floor, Dougan responded with a nearly perfect routine to capture the title. She danced across the floor and the beam like a ballerina on the stage. Dougan never slipped. She rarely stumbled, and her scores are the proof. In three seasons with the Knights, Dougan rallied for six Class L titles in the all-around, beam, bars, and floor. She battled for three state open titles and five New England championships.

When the Knights needed a lift, they’d turn to their ace. Dougan never let them down. She’d tweak routines, add skills, and do whatever was needed to secure the necessary score.

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