Since the dominant Bethpage-Plainview gymnastics program split in 2008, Bethpage had struggled to live up to its years of shared success. The squad posted a 4-6 dual-meet record in its first year as an independent team and has worked toward restoring its championship caliber ever since. Last season, the Golden Eagles finally completed their climb back to the top, as they upset No. 1 Plainview in the County Championships to win their first ever Nassau title.
"We're energized and excited coming off an unexpected county championship last year and we want to try to defend it this year," coach Kim Rhatigan said.
Bethpage still has the pieces in place to repeat as champions. Senior captain Erin Roach has been an all-state competitor since seventh grade and sophomore Sarah Ciresi was third in the all-around at the Nassau Individual Championships. Bethpage lost freshman Serena Pergola, who transferred to St. Anthony's after finishing second at the Nassau Individual Championships last season.
Plainview had the best all-around average in Conference I and was undefeated in regular-season dual meets last season. The team returns the Nassau individual champion in freshman Jordan Sack, and coach Debbie Rut expects her team to finish first or second in the conference. Massapequa could also compete for those top two spots, and brings back a number of experienced gymnasts with all-state juniors Katie Wall and Jessica Romano leading the way. Sewanhaka has three freshmen atop its lineup with Liz Giannattasio, Corinne Alleyne and Stephanie Jennings. Jennings made all-state on beam and vault last season and coach Katie Mosie said all three girls could make the state team this year.
Oceanside perennially has a top-five team in Conference I but graduated nine seniors, including three all-county gymnasts, last year. Coach Andy Morris still thinks the Sailors can reach the county championships and hopes that seniors Stephanie DiLorenzo, Stephanie Richman and Briana Kay to have strong seasons. Hicksville is also in a rebuilding stage and starts the season without its top gymnast, junior Lauren Cecco, because of ankle injuries. Cecco could return near the end of the season but for now junior Rebecca Rilling and eighth-grader Alexis Mulholland will try to keep Hicksville competitive. Hewlett coach Carly Greenberg said her team's goal is to qualify for the team championships after missing the cut last season.
Long Beach finished in a three-way tie for the Conference II championship last season and moves up to Conference I this year. The squad has six seniors returning but will rely heavily on eighth-grader Meghan Maquet and seventh-grader Dakota Ejnes. Lawrence has an inexperienced group but brings back eighth-grader Taylor Luck who was all-county on vault and beam last season. Wantagh's new additions, junior Brianna Quinn and eighth-grader Gillian Chowske, are expected to help turn around the Warriors' last-place finish once they return from pre-season injuries in January.
South Side and North Shore shared the Conference II title with Long Beach last season, and both remain favorites to win it again this year. South Side is a deep team that returns every gymnast from last year's roster, and North Shore will be led by all-county junior Sabrina Swenson and sophomore Minnie Hou. Port Washington and Carle Place will also contend for the Conference II crown and Valley Stream has an improved bunch that could also be in the mix.
GYMNASTS TO WATCH
Jordan Sack, Fr., Plainview JFK
Sarah Ciresi, So., Bethpage
Stephanie Jennings, Fr., Sewanhaka
Katie Wall, Jr., Massapequa
Erin Roach, Sr., Bethpage
Ali Bezalel, So., Hewlett
Melissa Kropf, Jr., Plainview JFK
Jessica Romano, Jr., Massapequa