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Athlete of the Week is Connetquot gymnast Alexis Smith

Connetquot's Alexis Smith finishes her floor routine during

Connetquot's Alexis Smith finishes her floor routine during a Suffolk girls gymnastics meet between West Islip and Connetquot  on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017. Photo Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Two coincidentally similar injuries in consecutive years at the same softball tournament hurt Alexis Smith’s competitive gymnastics chances for most of her freshman and sophomore seasons.

Now healthy, Smith is starting to show just how good she can be.

Smith has been a focal point of Connetquot’s 5-0 overall start, continually putting forth exceptional efforts across the board. Tuesday against West Islip in the first league meet of the season, Smith finished first in the all-around with a 34.85 and earned Newsday’s Athlete of the Week honors as a result.

She finished first in vault (9.1) and second in the floor exercise (8.8), beam (8.65) and bars (8.3).

“It’s very frustrating when you get hurt in general, but the same weekend, the same tournament, it was extremely frustrating,” Smith said. “You always have that worry that you won’t be the same when you come back, but you always work to come back stronger.”

As a freshman, Smith slid into third base during a tournament in Connecticut and rolled her right ankle so badly that she was unable to perform for the rest of the year.

In the same tournament the following year, Smith, while running to first base, hit a base peg that she said shouldn’t have been there and tore three ligaments in her left ankle.

She returned at the end of the gymnastics season to help Connetquot finish an undefeated season and place fourth in the county.

Smith, a catcher, said she plans on playing softball this year but has a greater love for gymnastics.

“I find it more demanding and more difficult,” she said. “Softball is the same activity occurring over and over. Gymnastics is always a new challenge and something to overcome.”

Those challenges are what she prepares for during her rigorous practice sessions, which occur at a private gym after school. During the school year, she said she practices Monday through Friday, four hours per day. In the summer, she goes four days a week for seven hours a day.

“Sometimes you have to miss that meet, or you have practice so you miss that football game on a Friday night,” she said of her dedication.

All the work is paying dividends. Connetquot coach Renee Guerrieri said Smith is one of the most technically skilled gymnasts she’s coached. Smith is training to be a Level 10 gymnast, while high school rules are only Level 9.

Smith’s goal is to compete at the Division I level for the Air Force Academy, which she said combines a great program with “one of the best engineering facilities in the world.”

For now, she’s focused on competing well enough to make the state tournament team, which is typically comprised of 11 girls. And she’s well on her way.

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