By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Lady Knights (7-0) brought home the gold on Saturday, Feb. 13 when they placed first out of six teams at the Valentine Invitational at Farmington Valley Gymnastics in Plainville. Southington posted a score of 135.4 and finished the meet with the best scores on vault, beam, and floor.
The Knights’ best event score came on vault with a 35.75.
Glastonbury finished as the runner-ups with the best score on bars (33.1), followed by Farmington in third.
Although the Knights won the Valentine Invitational title, success didn’t come without a rough start. The Knights may not have scored the worst performance on beam, but Southington coach Kaitlyn O’Donnell said that her team didn’t have their best performance, either.
Southington started on beam, beginning the invitational with three falls and some wobbles, which equaled the most falls on beam all season. Starting the invitational on beam was also a first for the Knights this year, which O’Donnell said might have thrown the team off a little bit.
Despite the team effort, some individuals rose above the rough start. Kat Rothstein was the fourth gymnast to compete on the beam for Southington, and that proved to be a turning point for the Lady Knights.
“After the first three fell, she kind of turned it back around for us,” said O’Donnell. “All the other girls after her made their routines. She also had a really consistent floor routine, and she hit her bar routine.”
Rothstein’s 8.5 was one of her highest marks on beam this season. After the Knights got through beam, O’Donnell pulled her team aside to try and regroup them.
“The first thing I said to them was this isn’t the team that we are,” she said. “We work way too hard to watch our hard work go down the drain. That’s when they started to pull things back together.”
From there, Southington took control, finishing with three top 10 gymnasts in the all-around competition. Rachel Williams paced the Knights (34.1), finishing third overall in the all-around scoring. She tied for first on beam (8.8), tied for second overall on floor (8.8), and finished sixth on vault (8.8).
“Rachel was very consistent today,” said Southington coach Kaitlyn O’Donnell. “She hit a great beam routine, and floor was great. She stood up one of her vaults, so that’s always really good too. Getting more consistent at the beginning of the season was kind of difficult for her. But the more she competes, you can see her slowly starting to get more confident.”
Taryn Meenan earned the team’s second all-around score (33.7), finishing fifth overall. Meenan won vault (9.1) and medaled on bars (8.3) and floor (8.7).
“She had a great floor routine,” said O’Donnell. “We upgraded it, and she did her hard floor routine today. So I was very proud of her for that.”
Kayla Birmingham (32.65) wasn’t too far behind Meenan, achieving the team’s third all-around score to finish eighth overall. Birmingham medaled on vault (8.9) and floor (8.65).
“Kayla had a beautiful floor routine and a great vault,” said O’Donnell. “She shows a real lot of leadership out on the floor, especially today. And I was really proud of her for that. Things weren’t really going our way at the beginning of the meet and I saw her trying to get the girls focused and back on track.”
Other Knights that medaled included Vicky Castillo on vault (8.95) and beam (8.6), Hannah Weir on bars (8.0), and Rothstein on beam (8.5).
Victoria Karl of Glastonbury finished with the best all-around score (35.05), followed by Alyssa Alchimo of Sheehan (34.95).
Southington is currently ranked third in the CIAC girls gymnastics rankings with an average score of 135.85 behind Woodstock Academy (143.81) and Greenwich (142.35). The Knights are set to compete at the Class L state meet at Pomperaug High School on Saturday, Feb. 27.