By JOHN GORALSKI
One after another, the Lady Knight gymnasts slipped off the beam in competition. It only takes a tiny mistake, a shift in body position, or a misplaced hand or foot across the four-inch surface.
On Saturday, Jan. 10, the Lady Knights opened their season in their home gym, and nobody walked away with a perfect routine on the beam.
It didn’t seem to matter.
Even Southington’s lowest score beat all but two of Conard’s marks. Vicky Castillo led the way with an 8.75. Lexi Rothstein (8.45), Sarah Leahy (8.4), and Marilyn Sporbert (8.1) scored respectably despite the falls, and the Lady Knights opened their season with a convincing 14-point win over their conference rival.
“Despite our beam falls, I’m pretty happy with where we’re starting. I wanted to hit 140, and we were only a few tenths off,” said Lady Knight coach Kaitlin O’Donnell. “I’m going to blame it on first meet jitters, but I think it shows that it’s something we need to concentrate on. We’ve had problems with it in the past, so we need to work on it. I think the jitters really got to them because I didn’t think we were as focused as we could have been.”
Southington won every event. Sporbert (9.1) powered the Knights on vault. Rothstein paced the team on bars (9.0) and floor (9.25). Rothstein tied Kamrin Dawkins, an individual competitor from Platt-Meriden, for the all-around title (35.6), and Southington won the team competition, 139.65-125.4.
“I just wanted them to get those first meet jitters out and take a look at what we need to put in our routines and what we have to take out,” O’Donnell said. “Now, we can focus on fine tuning our routines for the rest of the season.”
The coach said that the score is a benchmark for the early season. Last season, it took four meets before the Knights managed a 139.65. O’Donnell credits the team’s depth and the rise of its underclassmen. The coach said that she was pleased with a number of routines across the lineup.
“Taryn [Meenan] had a really great bar routine, and that was the first time that she’s actually connected it without any form breaks,” she said. “Kayla Birmingham did a really great update on vault. She did a handspring-full, and last year she only did a half. Our freshman, Kat Rothstein, did a really good floor routine. She went first, and that helped us. I think this is just a starting point for us. I think we’re really going to be able to go higher in our next meets.”
In conjunction with the season opener, the Lady Knights orchestrated a donation drive for cancer research with donation bins at the door, colorful jerseys, and a variety of fundraising items. O’Donnell said that it was a good way to open the season, and it gave the team a chance to give back.
“The girls came up with the idea. They really wanted to support breast cancer awareness and research, and I really thought it was a great idea,” said O’Donnell. “We got the school involved. We had t-shirts made, and hopefully we raised a lot of money that we can donate.”
Now, the Knights (1-0) will have a full week to prepare for their next competition. On Monday, Jan. 19, the girls will take on RHAM at Patti Dunne Gymnastics in Hebron. The first event is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.