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Gymnasts Strive For SWC Pinnacle As Tough Competition Awaits



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Bonus for start value and injuries can make all the difference in gymnastics.

Last year’s South-West Conference championships were very close, and it might be fair to say that had injuries not been a factor, Newtown High School’s squad would have come out on top. The Nighthawks scored 134.85 points, just behind champion Oxford (135.50) and finished slightly ahead of Pomperaug of Southbury (133.65).

Once again, Coach Kim Kane and the Nighthawks expect to battle it out with a small but talented Oxford group and a large/deep Pomperaug squad as well as a strong Nonnewaug team.

“I would like to win SWCs this year,” Kane said. “It’ll be tough, but I’d like to if not win, at least come in second again this year.”

Each competitor has a start value of 9.2 but can earn a score up to 10 based on bonus for point value, and Kane is hopeful of maximizing her gymnasts’ potential.

“The goal for me is to make sure they have the highest start value as possible and perform as well as possible — and stay healthy,” Kane said.

Health, from winter colds to injuries, is paramount to success, the coach notes.

Some of that is out of a coach’s control, but those extra points that can be earned are manageable to some degree.

“It’s tricky. You have to know your gymnasts and know what their strengths are, as well as their weakness,” Kane said of adding dance connections, tumbling, and other elements to routines to bump up score potential.

The Nighthawks will continue to hone skills in preseason as they practice at home venue Kinetic Kids Gymnastics in Oxford.

Emma Delia — who won the floor event, was second on the uneven bars and eighth in all around in the SWC championships, and placed third in the floor in the Class L state championships, where the Nighthawks placed fourth as a team — is a significant loss among graduates. Delia capped off her career by winning the State Open balance beam title and qualifying for the New England championships. Liz Marcinek, a key scorer on the balance beam in states a year ago, and Maddie Jannott, who was sidelined due to injury, also leave voids.

Captains are Ally Kenny (who competes all around and was a postseason standout) and Bella Manfredi (floor).

Other key returnees are Marissa Choi (beam) and Hannah Jojo (all around). Mary Locke, who was injured last season, is expected to be a strong contributor on bars and beam. Newcomers the coach will look to for success include Brynn Reilly and Katie Gardner (both all around) and Ava Berry (floor).

Kane is hopeful of having a handful of team members qualify for the State Open and of having another New England qualifier — and perhaps an All American.

“I think our strongest event this year will probably be balance beam. We will be strong on floor. We’d like to see improvement on vault,” the coach said. “We’re definitely working hard and making sure everyone’s able to compete.”

The work ethic and cohesiveness are also strengths, Kane said.

“They’re great kids to work with. That community does a great job of bringing out the best of the kids, and they’re really supportive of each other, which makes it very easy to coach,” she added.

Snow wiped out some of last year’s competition, and not all of the meets were rescheduled due to weather and available dates. The Nighthawks have a few extra competitions scheduled with hopes of all, or at least most, taking place as Mother Nature allows.

The regular season kicks off after the New Year with a January 5 visit to Southbury for the Pomperaug Invitational, beginning at 10 am. The SWC championships are slated to take place in New Milford on February 7, at 5 pm.

Gymnastics captains are Ally Kenny and Bella Manfredi. —Bee Photo, Hutchison
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