By BRIAN JENNINGS
Rachel Williams hopped onto the bars and gracefully swung from the low bar to the high bar. She extended into a handstand position, shifted direction with a pirouette, and switched back to the low bar.
On Saturday, Jan. 9, Williams danced around the bars, flipped into a dismount, and landed softly on the mat like a cat in a bar routine that seemed much too graceful for such a hard-fought battle with Wethersfield. Although the Lady Knights (2-0) didn’t finish first in bars, Williams still had her best performance of the season.
In the team’s second home meet, Southington squeaked by Wethersfield, 134.25-131.25, at C.A.T.S. In Cheshire.
As a team, Southington gymnasts placed first on vault (35.6) and floor (33.8) but finished second on bars (30.8) and beam (24.05). Williams, a sophomore, led the way.
“She has done really well at our first two meets of the season, and I think she is starting to prove herself as a strong all-arounder,” said Southington coach Kaitlyn O’Donnell. “Last year, she competed in two events for us. So, to see her transition to all four is great.”
Williams led the team on bars (8.2) with the second-best overall score. However, the clincher of the meet was her performance on floor, as she upgraded her routine from last meet to come away with the best overall score (8.8).
Williams also contributed with the third-best overall score on vault (8.7), and tied for the third-best score on beam (8.45), achieving the second-best all-around score (34.15), behind Hailey Olesen (34.4) of Wethersfield.
Taryn Meenan battled sickness, but was able to carry the best overall score on vault (9.1) and tie for the third-best overall score on floor (8.5), recording the fourth-best all-around score (32.1).
Vicky Castillo vaulted for the first time this week and tied Kayla Birmingham for the second-best overall score on vault (8.9). Castillo was also the queen of beam, taking home the best overall score (9.3) by 0.1 over Olesen. Birmingham was right behind Williams with the second-best all around score (33.15) as well.
“To improve from the last meet is definitely a good thing for us,” said O’Donnell. “I’m liking what I’m seeing so far. I thought vault was pretty strong. I think we only had one fall. Bars is a little rough. Bars is our weak event this year. It’s a lot lower than the other events, but we’re working on it.”
O’Donnell went on to say that confidence and experience are the challenges that the team is looking to overcome, but each meet they seem to improve. Major improvements from last week include vault and beam.
Megan Walsh finished with the team’s fourth-best score (7.35) on bars after she missed the first meet of the season against South Windsor (0-2).
“She did really well in her first meet,” the coach said. “I really liked floor for her and she hit a great beam routine too.”
Southington will head out on the road for their first road meets of the season when they visit Hall (0-1) on Tuesday, Jan. 12 and Conard (0-1) on Thursday, Jan. 14. Both meets will take place at Whiting Lane Elementary School in West Hartford.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.