Senior captain Amanda Rubano, earning both All-American and All-SCC team honors, helped lead the Tigers to their fifth straight SCC title and first Class M state crown since 2007. (Photo by John Vanacore/The Source
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Hand Gymnastics was Cut Above Rest
Published March 19, 2013. Last updated 11:18 a.m., March 20, 2013
For the Hand gymnastics squad, it was business as usual, showing why it is a preeminent force in the SCC and all of Connecticut.
Following a 14-1 regular season, with their lone blemish being a two-point loss to Class L runner-up Glastonbury on Feb. 1, the Tigers won their fifth straight SCC crown on Feb. 18 at Law. Yet the grand achievement came when Hand won the Class M state crown on Feb. 23 at Pomperaug, the Tigers' 13th state title in the sport of gymnastics-the most by any program in the history of Hand athletics.
"We accomplished our goals in a big way. We wanted to repeat as SCC champions and break the 140-point barrier, which we also did early in a meet this season," said Head Coach Kelly Smith, whose squad also qualified for the State Open, in which it finished fourth on March 1 at New Miford. "Learning we were also the team with the most state titles in Hand history was just icing on the cake. Yet we would have liked to match our third-place Open finish from last year."
Hand earned the suit of being the Tigers with the most state titles with captains in junior Kendall Jerzyk (MVP) and lone senior Amanda Rubano. Smith expresses that both brought much to the table with their athleticism in competition and leadership away from the floor when it mattered most.
"The captains led this team in and out of our gym. They were rock-solid competitors for us all season, both earning a slew of accolades for their success," said Smith. "They were there as emotional supporters for their teammates. Amanda's been an excellent role model for her younger teammates and a pleasure to work with the last four years. We could always count on Kendall for strong performances and scores, along with her team-first attitude and work ethic. She had her best meet of the season at states [36.15 for all-around] to help lead the team to victory."
As expected, Hand held multiple postseason award winners with All-American team members Rubano (for beam and Academic All-American), Jerzyk (vault, bars, beam, floor, and all-around), junior Stefani Taschner (also for all five events and Academic All-American), junior Maria Iennaco (floor and Academic All-American), freshmen Erin Maxwell (vault, beam, and all-around) and Becca Anderson (beam), along with junior Julie Keenan earning Academic All-American distinction.
At the All-State level, First Team honors were earned by Jerzyk, Taschner, and sophomore Abby McGuirk, while Rubano (Academic All-State), Iennaco, Maxwell, and Anderson grabbed Second Team accolades. With SCC champions in Taschner on bars (9.1) and Jerzyk on floor (9.15), they were joined on the All-SCC team by Rubano, Iennaco, Maxwell, and Anderson.
Additional team award recipients included Iennaco (Most Improved), Keenan (Student-Athlete Tiger Award), along with Maxwell (Coach's Award). No matter the group accolade achieved, the trio gave their all towards the ultimate honor in the Tigers' first state crown since 2007.
"Maria made the biggest increases in her skill level and routine difficulty from last season to this year," remarked Smith. "Over the last three years, she has had the biggest jump, and it is a testament to her work in the gym. Julie is the perfect example of a student athlete, has strong sportsmanship, and is all about the team, keeping a positive attitude. Erin showed composure and confidence as if she were a seasoned veteran. She's a hard worker, a great teammate to the other athletes, and a pleasure for the coaches to work with in the gym."
With both team and solo success, Smith is nothing but optimistic for a repeat run in 2013 as tops in both the conference and state.
"Next year looks to be another great one," said Smith. "The bulk of our lineup will return with a lot of time in the offseason to make improvements and increase routine difficulty. We hope to have another successful year next year."