In coach Kaitlyn O'Donnell's first season as Southington High girls gymnastics head coach, the Blue Knights won the Class L title and placed fourth at the New England championships. After losing New England all-around champion Erin Malone to graduation, Southington hasn't missed a beat, completing a 9-0 regular season to go with a win at the Valentine Invitational.
"Our team this year has really come together, each meet we try to improve as a group and I think that's what has made us so successful," said senior captain Kayla Nati. "We are excited to move forward into postseason."
O'Donnell said that the Blue Knights' key to winning this season has been depth. Nati, along with Lexi Rothstein and Marilyn Sporbert have returned after contributing to the state championship team last year.
"[Nati] has been really consistent for us on bars and vault," O'Donnell said after Nati scored a 35.5 against North Haven on Senior Day. "[Rothstein] has been very consistent for us all year on all four events."
Sophomore Vicky Castillo and freshman Taryn Meenan have also stepped up.
"We have five all-arounders which is unusual. I think all five of them really have stood out this year and they're really solid," O'Donnell said. "[Castillo] has really helped our team. For being a freshman, [Meenan] has really stepped it up. She's competed in all-around for us in every meet."
The team's depth led to a win at the Valentine Invitational at Farmington Valley Gymnastics on Feb. 8 with a high score of 142.2, beating second-place Glastonbury (139.15). O'Donnell identified the Tomahawks as Southington's biggest competition in Class L.
"Going into that meet, I told the girls this is like a mini-states for us. Just to see how they did under the pressure of thinking that way," she said. "And they actually got their highest score of the season."
O'Donnell said that the Valentine Invite, which every CCC team attended, will be a good experience to prepare the team for the postseason.
"We do those little tests like that to try to prepare them."
Hand Wins SCCs
Hand-Madison won the SCC championship on Feb. 7 scoring a meet-record 141.45 points, breaking its own previous record of 139 in 2006. North Haven finished second with 123.25 points. The title is Hand's six straight conference championship and 17th overall. Stefani Taschner won the all-around competition with 35.95 points. ... The Class L, M, and S team titles will be decided on March 1 at Pomperaug-Southbury, with the State Open March 8 at New Milford.