Gymnasts earn their first victory of the season

Mychele Vaillancourt performs on bars during a recent Southington competition. (Photo by John Goralski)

By KEVIN ROBERTS

STAFF WRITER

One by one, Southington gymnasts took off toward the vault in the first event of their Jan. 12 home opener against Hall at American Gymnastics.

The efforts on vault elicited cheers from Lady Knight supporters, as well they should have, and it set the tone for the meet. Southington put in the work during the previous week, and it resulted in a 120.85 to 84.15 victory over Hall.

“It feels awesome,” said Cassidy Chamberland, who earned her first win as coach of the Knights. “We were looking forward to it going into the meet because we put in a lot of work this week. We extended practice times this week, and the girls gave it all and then some. We were really, really excited to get that win, and it was well-deserved.”

Southington started the night by showing off increased difficulties in its vaults. After freshman Rylee LeClair scored 7.4, sophomore Natalie Reeves followed with a 9.0 on a vault called the Yurchenko. The Yurchenko is a difficult vault involving several different components. The difficulty didn’t faze Reeves, who earned an impressive score.

Lizy Beaulieu and Kaylin Leifert, both sophomores, performed a Tsukahara vault and did admirably with scores of 8.2 and 8.7. Senior captain Mychele Vaillancourt finished off the vault for Southington with an 8.3.

“We were really excited for them to upgrade their vaults and perform that for the first time ever in their competitions,” Chamberland said.

Bars were next, and Reeves picked up where she left off at vault with a score of 8.45. Reeves wound up with the best all-around score of the night at 32.75. Beaulieu finished with an all-around score of 30.9 as the Knights improved on their team total from a season-opening loss to Farmington on Jan. 5.

“We saw good things from everyone in every single event,” Chamberland said. “Kaylin Leifert upgraded every single routine for every single event this week, so it was really good for her to go out there and show off her upgrades.”

Leifert was third in all-around score at 29.9, followed by Vaillancourt at 27.3. Leifert had a team-best 7.9 on beam, followed by Vaillancourt at 7.7. Beam is not an easy event, to say the least.

“Beam is always a little bit tough,” Chamberland said. “You can’t blame them, they’re flipping over something that’s four inches wide, but it’s something we’re going to keep working on.”

Before the meet, Southington did some mental imagery of each event, trying to picture what would happen. Chamberland said the Knights will continue to use mental imagery to try to improve confidence, especially on beam.

“That’s something we need to keep doing, especially for beam, because at practice, they’re nailing beam routine after beam routine after beam routine,” Chamberland said. “We got to keep working on the confidence level because they have the skills already.”

Southington finished with a flourish on floor. Reeves scored an 8.3 while Beaulieu got an 8.0. Vaillancourt tweaked her elbow on her second time through in her floor routine, but gutted it out and scored a 6.6.

“They did do really well on floor. It’s always good to have floor as your last event, because it kind of takes a little bit of the edge off,” Chamberland said. “They can just go out and actually have fun, focus on cheering each other on, show it off, and breathe a sigh of relief that everything is done.”

Up next: Southington hosts a winter invitational this Saturday that will include the Knights and several other CCC teams. The invitational is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at American Gymnastics.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com

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