Pictured is the 2013 SCC and Class M state champion Tigers' gymnastics squad with (front row) Head Coach Kelly Smith, Nicole Farales, Volunteer Coach Heather Gilmore; (middle row) Assistant Coach Jessica Hoover, Meredith Ovian, Kendall Goodman, Julie Keenan, Amanda Rubano, Kendall Jerzyk, Tess Smith, Patty Chalmers; (back row) Abby McGuirk, Aimee Merkle Scotland, Becca Anderson, Korinne Portley, Maria Iennaco, Stefani Taschner, Sarah Klass, Ashlyn Thompson, Genevieve Geller, Lauren Lachapelle, and Erin Maxwell. Missing from the photo are Alicia Lanzetti and Portia Blanchard. (Photo and information courtesy of Kelly Smith
Drive to Five: Gymnastics' Notches Fifth Straight SCC Crown
Published February 26, 2013. Last updated 10:26 a.m., February 27, 2013
Hand Gymnastics Claims SCC, State Crowns in Same Week
Most teams would be content with winning one championship in a week. However, the Hand gymnastics squad isn't like most teams. Following winning their fifth straight SCC crown on Feb. 18, the Tigers immediately set out on their next mission in capturing their first Class M state title since 2007.
Much like last season, it was mission accomplished as Hand collected the state crown on Feb. 23 at Pomperaug with a score of 139.275, which narrowly bested second-place Wilton (135.925). The state crown marked the Tigers' 13th state title in gymnastics-the most by any program in the history of Hand athletics.
"Hand is known across the state for having one of the most successful athletic programs so to be now known as the one with the most, it's incredible," said Coach Kelly Smith, whose team also heads into the State Open on March 1 at New Milford seeded second. "We are one of the lesser-known sports in the state, as well, but the girls have worked so hard and are deserving of the honor."
Hand also made it a clean sweep in the events, taking first in all four.
"We had some of our best scores, especially on the bars and beam, which showed how bad we wanted to win," said junior captain Kendall Jerzyk. "Everyone did their absolute best when it really mattered. It is an honor to be a part of the legacy that is Hand gymnastics."
Hand's highest-scoring event of the day was the beam, earning a team mark of 35.775, led by winner Jerzyk (9.25), freshmen Erin Maxwell (9.05) and Becca Anderson (8.850), along with junior Stefani Taschner (8.625).
"Going into any championship meet, you worry about the beam," remarked Smith. "It's only four inches and it is so easy to fall off of so we did a lot of numbers leading up to states to get our confidence good before it."
The Tigers tallied a total of 35.175 for the vault, led by Taschner winning the event with a 9.3, along with Maxwell (8.7), Jerzyk (8.6), and junior Ashlyn Thompson (8.575).
"The goal for me in beam was to stay on it," said Jerzyk. "I have been working very hard to prefect my routine throughout the season. I went into it very confident in myself and the team."
Next were the bars, which saw the Tigers score an even 34 points. The mark was achieved thanks to Taschner (8.65), Maxwell (8.225), and Jerzyk (9.175), who beat out Farmington's Gabriella Lester by a mere 0.25-point margin (9.150) for another solo title on the day. Anderson also scored a 7.95 in this event.
On the floor, Hand sported a 34.325 thanks to Jerzyk (9.125), junior Maria Iennaco (8.55), Maxwell (8.45), and Taschner (8.2).
"We worked extremely hard for this win and we knew it wouldn't be easy, but it was attainable," said Taschner. "Going in, Coach Smith assured us that we were physically and mentally prepared and that no matter what happened individually, each and every one of us had our whole team behind us to back each other up. It was amazing to have all that hard work put us on top."
With a total tally of 36.15, Jerzyk earned the highest all-around mark for the Class M winners. She was followed by Taschner (34.775) and Maxwell (34.425).
"Kendall had her highest all-around score of the season and she could not have picked a better day for it," said Smith. "She stepped up as a true leader and looked like she had no nerves."
At the earlier SCC meet, the Tigers saw two event winners in Jerzyk on floor (9.15) and Taschner on bars (9.1). Taschner and Jerzyk were also named to the All-SCC team, in addition to fellow Tigers Maxwell and Anderson with Iennaco, plus senior captain Amanda Rubano. For Hand, the only inspiration it needed was looking at its own legacy and continuing it.
"If anyone knows about our team, they know that winning SCCs is a tradition and we believe that old habits die hard," said Rubano. "It's something that we know going into the competition and something we have to live up to. The history was our pep talk on the way to this meet as we pass around the trophy that has Hand's name on it 16 times."
For the vault, a trio of Tigers made their marks with Taschner (4th, 8.8) only 0.2 points shy of first, Jerzyk (5th, 8.4), and Maxwell (6th, 8.3). As Jerzyk captured the conference's floor crown, she was accompanied by teammates not too far behind in their own achievements, including Taschner in the second spot with a score of 9.1.
While no one on the beam could catch Shelton's Meg French-who set an SCC record for the event with a 9.45-several Tigers were right on her heels for this event. Maxwell (8.85) and Rubano (8.8) finished third and fourth, respectively.
Even though Taschner did not defend her SCC vault championship of a year ago, she compensated by taking the bars event. For the all-around, she came very close to taking the title with a 35.4 score, 0.2 points behind first.
Along with captains in Jerzyk (First Team All-State) and Rubano (Second Team All-State), Hand's participants in these title runs were juniors Iennaco (Second Team All-State), Kendall Goodman, Julie Keenan, Sarah Klass, Aimee Merkle-Scotlan, Taschner (First Team All-State), and Ashlyn Thompson; sophomores Lauren LaChapelle, Abby McGuirk (First Team All-State), and Korrine Portley; along with freshmen Tess Smith, Anderson (Second Team All-State), Portia Blanchard, Patty Chalmers, Nicole Farrales, Genevieve Geller, Alicia Lanzetti, Maxwell (Second Team All-State), and Meredith Ovian.