Contrary to what it may have seemed, Bethpage's Alexis Fraher didn't quash her nerves between her first and second vault Tuesday at Plainview Middle School.
Though she fell on the first, ("I was very, very nervous") and stuck the second, there was no way of getting around it: Trying to land a front in the biggest team competition of the year is, frankly, kind of scary.
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"But I remembered what my [club] coach told me," she said. "When you get nervous, use that . . . My heart was pounding, though. I literally went up to the girls and said, 'I am going to have a heart attack.' "
Fraher didn't only survive the Nassau team championship, she starred in it: earning a 9.5757 on the vault to help lead Bethpage in its third straight title. The Golden Eagles scored a 174.775, trailed by second-place Plainview JFK, which finished with a 169.25. Fraher, a freshman, earned second in the all-around with a 36.925.
"This is the sweetest feeling in the world," Bethpage senior co-captain Jamie Kaletcher said. "It's the best one yet."
Maybe it's because this is the first time Bethpage has won the team championship while also wresting the regular-season title from Plainview JFK. Or maybe it was the team's resiliency that made this win just a little more special. Despite a huge overhaul in the beginning of the year, Bethpage had steady improvements in girls like junior co-captain Sarah Ciresi, who Tuesday tied for first on bars with a 9.0 and finished with a 35.85. Then, there were the unmistakable contributions of eighth-grader Alyssa Firth: Her Yurchenko pike was good for a 9.25 on vault.
"We lost 10 of our seniors and we had an eighth-grader step up to the plate," Fraher said. "It's tremendous."
The turning point, said coach Kim Rhatigan, was beam. Of the six girls competing, only one took a spill.
"And really, we say whoever hits beam, wins the meet," she said. "They were mentally ready. I'm very proud of them because they were really fired up."
As if to prove her point, Ciresi said she told her teammates that the title was theirs to lose.
"I knew it," she said. "After winning the conference, I knew we were going to win it. I told everyone it was ours if we just do what we had to do."