In high school gymnastics, the name of the game is youth. But could Plainview JFK's senior-led team be the key to wresting back that county championship from Bethpage?
After two years of defeating Bethpage for the Conference I title and falling short in the team championship meet, you can guarantee that Plainview JFK is hungry -- it returns three state qualifying seniors. Led by stalwart Victoria Vitale in her sixth year on the varsity, as well as floor virtuoso Melissa Kropf and Katrina Migliorini, the team will have to work around the loss of last year's individual champion Jordan Sack. Out recuperating from a shoulder injury, the sophomore is tentatively expected to return in January, about enough time to possibly make the state championships, said state team coach Kim Rhatigan.
Despite the setback, Plainview JFK, known for its strong beam routines and overall consistency, will be one of the teams to beat, along with Rhatigan's Bethpage. The defending county champions return a veritable smorgasbord of talent, including Alexis Fraher, the ninth-grader who tied for second in the all-around in the individual tournament. Sarah Ciresi, who went to the state tournament as a vault specialist, returns and is expected to be a leading force. Alexa Pepe, also a state gymnast, helps round out a very strong team.
Massapequa remains consistent behind Katie Wall and boasts six seniors, including standouts Brianna Saba and Briana Wick. The Chiefs are known for their discipline and coach Mike Capone expects big contributions from 10th-grader Emily Caulfield. For Sewanhaka District, the name on everyone's lips is Elmont sophomore Stephanie Jennings, who tied for second place in the individual tournament. A starter since seventh-grade, she'll lead a young team, along with Elmont's Corinne Alleyne, who's showing improvement on bars and floor, and New Hyde Park's Liz Giannattasio.
A balanced Hicksville returns junior Rebecca Rilling and senior Lauren Cecco, while Long Beach has a standout in eighth-grader Meghan Maquet. After an uneven season last year, Oceanside hopes to bounce back behind Stephanie DiLorenzo. Meanwhile, Hewlett's Ali Bezalel, now a junior, continues to be one of the best gymnasts in the county.
In Conference II, Sabrina Swenson leads a strong North Shore team that might get stiff competition from Port Washington (Eleni Kouvouras). Lawrence hopes to make strides behind Gaby Levey, a club gymnast, and Taylor Luck.