By John Goralski
Fan packed into the seats alongside the beam and crowded into the spaces between mats. Spectators huddled in every open space just to catch a glimpse of the regular season rivalry between Glastonbury gymnasts and the Lady Knights.
Most pundits predict that the Class L title will come down to one of these programs, and on Saturday, Jan. 18, fans were treated to a special preview.
“It’s our biggest meet of the year, and it’s our rival team,” said Southington gymnastics coach Kaitlyn O’Donnell. “I think that this is the most people that have come out to see us at a regular season meet in a really long time, and I think it helped.”
The Knights wasted no time. Lexi Rothstein hit her vault (9.15), and Marilyn Sporbert (9.1) matched Glastonbury’s top vaulter. Marilyn Sporbert (9.1) and Vicky Castillo (8.8) scored, and the Knights eclipsed the Tomahawks but a full point on vault.
“We did our harder routines tonight, and I think that helped us,” O’Donnell said. “Then, the energy was really high tonight, and that seemed to lift us.”
Castillo (9.0) anchored the Knights on bars. Rothstein (8.8), Kayla Nati (8.75), and Taryn Meenan (8.5) contributed, and Southington built a 1.35 point lead after two events.
Glastonbury trimmed the lead to under .5 after beam, but Southington surged onto the floor. Sporbert (9.25), Rothstein (9.1), Nati (8.85), and Castillo (8.75) combined for four of the top six scores in the event, and Southington held on for a 139.65-137.95 victory.
“It’s kind of like we performed last year at states,” said O’Donnell. “We had a little bit of a mess-up on beam, but we really picked it up on floor. We really stepped it up. I think we knew that we had those falls on beam, and that was our cleanest floor routine yet.”
O’Donnell cautions about any overconfidence from the victory. Both teams will continue to improve, and it’s no clear prediction about the postseason rematch. The Knights struggled a little bit on beam, and in four meets they have yet to hit every event.
“I think this is just an early indication, if anything,” said the coach. “It shows how hard we’re working in circumstances like this, because we’re a young team. Glastonbury’s a very good team, and I think we’re going to have to keep improving.”
The victory came on the heels of a 24-point victory over Hall at Whiting School in West Hartford on Tuesday.
Sporbert paced the Knights with 35.4 points in the all-around competition. She set the top scores on vault (9.05) and beam (9.3). Nati set the pace on bars (8.65), and Rothstein set the standard on floor (8.85).
Southington swept all four events to beat Hall, 138.65-124.25, and they improved their team score at Whiting School by a full point from the season opener against Conard.
“We still had to water down our routines a little bit because of the facility, but we still had a good meet,” said O’Donnell. “I’m starting to see the confidence from them, and it’s a good build up to states.”
Southington’s next challenge will be to break the 140-point barrier, and they will have two chances this week with meets at RHAM and at home against Wethersfield on Saturday.
By John Goralski