Hand gymnastics' tradition of excellence continues for another winter with another piece of postseason hardware.
The Tigers scored 141.45 points as a group at the SCC Championship on Feb. 7 at Law to claim their sixth consecutive conference title and a new team record in points for the meet. Led by outstanding performances, including SCC Most Outstanding Performer in senior Stefani Taschner, who won four events, Hand stands on top of the SCC mountain for the 17th time.
"I am so proud of our team's performance last night. I really think that we went into it with a good vibe and we went and did exactly what we wanted to do in breaking the record," said Taschner. "For me, it was amazing to be able to take the all-around title and Most Outstanding Performer title for senior year. It was a really big goal of mine. Being there for my team made me so happy because we did so well."
Taschner captured the all-around (35.95), floor (9.2), vault (9.45), and bar (9.0) competitions while other Tigers around her contributed to additional points with their strong showings. Hand outlasted runner-up North Haven (123.25) and third-place Law (117.95), along with Foran (104.75) and Hamden (95.5).
"As a team, we have worked very hard, and I think we went into the meet very prepared and focused, hoping we could set a new team record for SCCs," said senior tri-captain Kendall Jerzyk. "I'm so happy that our team won and that we could continue what has become a tradition for Hand gymnastics."
Elsewhere for the Tigers in the all-around, junior Abby McGuirk was third with a 35.65 tally and right with her were Jerzyk (4th, 35.55) and sophomore Erin Maxwell (6th, 33.70). Moving to the beam, Shelton's Meghan French took the title with her 9.35, yet Hand made also its presence felt in the event with Jerzyk (2nd, 9.1), Maxwell (3rd, 9.0), McGuirk, and senior Maria Iennaco (each 6th, 8.6).
For the floor, Jerzyk tied with Taschner, also scoring a 9.2. The pair was also joined by McGuirk in third (9.15) and Iennaco for fifth (8.75). With the bars, McGuirk took second thanks to an 8.9 performance while Jerzyk came in fourth (8.2).
In the vault, the Tigers locked up more stellar scores in Jerzyk's fifth-place tally of 9.05 and McGuirk's sixth-place 9.0.
"We are so proud of our win tonight and getting the SCC Championship team-score record. We set the record last year [139.55] and we knew going in tonight that that score was within reach so we were excited to get above a 140 and also to break the record," said Head Coach Kelly Smith. "We had a few errors here and there with form or connections and a few mishaps on beam, but a very solid meet overall. This score is a confidence boost going into the other postseason meets. We have some minor things to work on, but I think we're right where we want and need to be.
Excited for her entire squad, Smith pointed out how she was equally ecstatic for her athletes reaching their goals.
"Individually, I'm so happy for Stefani, after narrowly missing the all-around title last year, for her to come up with it this year and be named the meet MVP; she is so deserving of that title. And having four all-around performers in the top six is really impressive," said Smith. "Kendall Jerzyk is the two-time defending SCC floor champion and tied for the title tonight with Stefani. Abby McGuirk continues to compete solid routines on every event and is known even by other coaches and teams for her bubbly personally and contagious smile, especially on floor. Erin Maxwell turned in her strongest beam routine of the year when it counted most to get her season-high 9.0 and Maria Iennaco competed in three great events for us, making all of her routines, including new difficulty. She's now officially back in full after battling an injury at the beginning of the season."
Leading up to the championship meet, the Tigers reached an additional milestone versus Law on Feb. 4 when they scored a school-record 142.95 points to defeat the Eagles and improve to 11-1 on the regular campaign. Taschner nailed a personal-best 37.0 for the all-around with a 9.45 on the vault, 9.2 on bars, 9.1 on the beam, and 9.25 for the floor; McGuirk added a 36.2 in the all-around, 9.05 on bars, 9.1 on beam, and 9.1 on floor; Jerzyk accumulated 35.65 for the all-around, 9.2 on floor, and 9.05 on vault; Maxwell had a score of 33.2 with the all-around, 8.6 on vault, and 8.5 on floor; Iennaco finished with an 8.8 on beam, 8.75 on vault, and 8.55 on floor; freshman Lily Spencer contributed with an 8.5 on beam, 8.35 on floor, 8.0 on bars; and senior Ashlyn Thompson also scored 8.55 on vault.
"Winning SCCs puts us in a good place for the next few weeks leading up to states and, hopefully, the State Open," said Taschner.