By John Goralski
Three gymnasts scored 9s on the vault. Two scored 9s on the beam, and one broke the barrier on floor. On Satruday, March 15, the Lady Knights shrugged off the trials and tribulations of the last two weeks and did what they do best. They quieted their nerves. They pushed out the sounds from the crowd and the other events…and they danced.
“It was the first meet that we went out and hit all 24 routines, and I think that was a great accomplishment for us,” said Southington gymnastics coach Kaitlyn O’Donnell. “Our goal going into the meet was to just end the season on a high note. To hit every routine was certainly a high note for us.”
Marilyn Sporbert (9.2) edged Lexi Rothstein (905) and Vicky Castillo (9.0) on the vault. Castillo (8.8) edged Rothstein (8.575) on bars, and Rothstein (9.075) edged Sporbert (8.925) on the floor. When it came to the beam, Rothstein was in a league of her own with a 9.55 score that beat all but one other gymnast at the New England event.
Senior captain Kayla Nati was scratched from the event after an injury sustained at the state open. Two Southington gymnasts were missing from the lineup, but the team rose to the challenge. Rothstein set the pace, and everyone else fell into step.
“I think our nerves were really high at the state open after Kayla [Nati] got hurt. Our routines were just a little off when you’re in the middle of the meet and you have to regroup yourself right there,” O’Donnell said. “This time, we had a plan going in. Everyone was a little more calm, and everyone hit and did what they could do to help us.”
Rothstein’s second place medal on beam was the highest Lady Knight finish in over five years. The junior’s 36.25 score across all four events catapulted her into the top 20 in the all-around competition. Castillo (35.65) and Sporbert (35.175) each finished in the top 30. Woodstock (151.15) eclipsed Barnstable, Mass. (145.025) atop the team standings. Despite the injuries to some of their top gymnasts, Southington (140.75) clawed their way into sixth place with their best score of this winter’s postseason.
“Even those girls that are injured in our lineup really stepped up. I saw a lot of leadership in our lineup from the junior class, and even our newcomers,” said O’Donnell. “Even with two of our key people missing we still hit 140, and that’s great. Injuries happen, but I think we did the best that we can, and they proved themselves.”
For the second week in a row, Taryn Meenan (33.425) filled the hole left by injury with scores that counted for the team score in all four events and added a full twist to one of her passes on the floor to finish third on the team with an 8.625. Kayla Birmingham and Jessica Kane continued to contribute in each event, while Sarah Dolan and Natalie Rickard made their postseason debuts for multiple events on the biggest stage of the season.
“It really stunk to not have Kayla, but it opened up some opportunities to get our freshmen and sophomores into the lineup. I think it’s really going to prepare them for the next couple of years when they are going to be in that position again. I was really proud of Taryn because she put in a new skill that we had been working on all season. She did it beautifully in her floor routine, and I was really proud of her for going out there and trying something new.
With their only senior scratched from the lineup, it gave O’Donnell an early preview of next year’s team, and the coach was pleased with the scores.
“Right now, it’s really about the off-season,” said the coach. “That’s what I told the girls. We’re capable of getting 140s all the time with this team. If they work hard over the summer and the fall, we can do this easily. I was really proud of them as a team. They really came together this week, and I was really proud that we could actually hit a meet.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at email@example.com.