By BRIAN JENNINGS
Wherever the Lady Knight gymnastics team competes, she competes. Wherever they train, she trains. But wherever they win, she doesn’t win… or does she?
Senior gymnast Alyssa Alchimio is the only gymnast at Sheehan High School in Wallingford. She competes as a solo gymnast with Southington and is one of the best, if not the best, gymnast in Southington’s gym.
According to the CIAC’s girls gymnastics open rankings, Alchimio currently ranked 18th in all-around (34.5875). She’s seeded 15th on beam (8.85), 22nd on floor (8.8875), 25th on vault (8.875), and 33rd on bars (8.4125). She would be either first or second in every event if she was a member of the Lady Knights.
All of her hard work and dedication to the sport is eminent, but not one single score in any of the four events she competes in are counted towards Southington’s final tally at meets. However, it doesn’t bother Alchimio one bit that her name is nowhere to be found on the score sheet.
“It would be cool if it was there, being part of their team,” said Alchimio. “But it’s just me, and they make me feel like I’m part of their team. It doesn’t really matter to me that my score’s not counting. I’m just doing it to have fun.”
Having fun with her favorite sport and making herself better are what Alchimio says is her sole purpose for being out on the mats. Aside from not scoring for a team, she performs her routines last at every meet as well. But that doesn’t seem to bother her much either.
“I’m kind of used to it because I’m the last one going all the time,” said Alchimio. “But when everyone’s watching, I tend to show off more or give a lot more effort so that I look really good.”
Alchimio joined the Knights in her sophomore year and said that she’s always felt welcomed and part of the team since day one. She has even gone as far as asking Southington coach, Kaitlyn O’Donnell, multiple times if she could wear a Southington leotard.
“They’re like my sisters. I’m with them all the time, and it’s awesome,” said Alchimio. “They’re always there to cheer me on. If I had a bad day, they’re always there to cheer me up.”
Alchimio placed third in all-around at last year’s SCC meet, but was unable to compete at the state open after she strained her MCL in her elbow on a roundup back handspring at practice just days before the open.
“When it happened, I thought I was done,” said Alchimio. “It was like the end of the world. I couldn’t play lacrosse because of it. In however many years I’ve done this sport, I’ve never been injured.”
Alchimio has since been recovering from her injury, and it hasn’t affected her performances thus far in the season. In a 133.65-129.25 win at Wethersfield on Wednesday, Feb. 1, she recorded her career high on beam with a score of nine. But that score didn’t come without Alchimio forgetting part of her routine, of course.
“I was sideways on the beam,” said Alchimio. “Instead of stepping one way, I stepped the other way, but fixed it. People that know my routine noticed, but I don’t know if everyone else did.”
Before suffering her injury last year, Alchimio placed 15th on floor and tied for 30th on bars at the state open during her sophomore campaign. She achieved her second-highest finish in the postseason by finishing fifth overall in all-around at this year’s SCC championship on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Alchimio has certainly had success throughout her high school gymnastics career, but according to her, it couldn’t have come without the help of her fellow Lady Knights.
“Competing with Southington has only made me love the sport even more,” said Alchimio. “Being with this team is awesome. Everything that they’ve done for me is great.”
O’Donnell experienced a similar journey during her high school gymnastics career. A standout gymnast from Cheshire High School, O’Donnell started competing with Southington as a solo gymnast in 2004 as a sophomore.
Southington won four-straight Class L titles from 2004 to 2008, setting a program record with 62 consecutive regular season wins over seven years. The 2007 team set postseason and team records with a score of 152.825 at the New England championship.
“I was good, but they pushed me to be better,” said O’Donnell. “I would definitely try to rise to the occasion sometimes and step up to the same level they were at. Each year that they got better, I slowly got better.”
The Knights were nationally known and were sending gymnasts to Florida to compete on the highest level of high school gymnastics in the nation. But O’Donnell was right up there with them.
As one of the top gymnasts competing with the Knights, O’Donnell’s best finish in the postseason came at the 2006 Class LL championship when she placed fifth in all-around and third on bars. Through all of Southington’s success though, O’Donnell said that she also felt like she was part of the Southington family.
“The girls really welcomed me and accepted me as part of their team,” said O’Donnell. “As my teammates from CATS started to come in and compete for Southington, it was like competing on one big team.”
O’Donnell went on to compete at the University of Bridgeport for all four years of college and eventually took over the Southington gymnastics team for the 2011-12 season. But as a coach that was once a solo gymnast now coaching a solo gymnast, O’Donnell said that she feels a certain connection and special bond with Alchimio.
“I know how she feels in a lot of situations,” said O’Donnell. “So I try to make sure that she’s very included. I know what it’s like to be the last person to compete. I think having that experience helps the situation.”
Alchimio plans to attend Sacred Heart University in Fairfield this fall and study nursing. She also plans to continue her gymnastics career and compete with Sacred Heart’s club team.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.