Harborfields gymnastics coach Carrie Miller is watching her girls practice on the uneven bars before their win over North Babylon, gently chiding them to focus their eyes on where they're going rather than where they may fall.
It's key, she said, to keeping yourself in flight. It's no wonder then that at least two of her girls, Sam Scholfield and Sara Veleno, have taken the principle directly to heart.
First there's Veleno, the squad's top all-around gymnast, who, in a feverish effort to qualify for the county meet, has added stunt after stunt to her floor routine in just the last three meets.
Then there's Scholfield, Veleno's teammate on their club gym, Half Hollow Hills, who's coming back from a stress fracture in her lower back. She's determined to make all-league, even though the thin wrestling mats she does her floor routine on at her home school makes landings especially painful.
"I'm working so hard toward counties," said Veleno, who won her four events with an all-around score of 32.6, pacing Harborfields (3-5) to the 138.7-125.8 League II win at North Babylon. "I was high all-league last year and I'm closest in floor and bars . . . but I won't know until after the last meet because only the top 30 girls go."
To put her drive into perspective, in her early-season floor routines, Veleno did a layout in her pass. On Monday, her first pass was a roundoff into a whip and a back tuck. "So I put that in three meets ago," she said.
That's followed by a front-handspring-front, "and I just put that in."
The result? 9.15, high mark of the meet.
Then there was Scholfield. Though benefiting from North Babylon's slightly cushier floors, the junior gritted her way to a 7.1 on floor. Her front handspring on vault earned her a 7.75, second only to Veleno. North Babylon was led by Melissa Montes, who earned a 7.7 on floor and a 7.6 on beam, powered by her back handspring-back tuck dismount.
"I've just wanted to overcome that injury," said Scholfield, who first broke her foot then injured her back to wipe out her sophomore campaign. "It hurts a lot, but not as much as it used to."
For a team that lost two of its top all-around gymnasts to injury this year, Scholfield's perseverance is especially vital. Veleno, for one, is relieved. "Seeing her get hurt last year was devastating," she said. "It's nice not to see her in pain and it's nice to see her up there."
That's what happens when you don't look down.