Before every gymnastics meet, Half Hollow Hills East’s Nicole Jackson makes sure her hair is just right.
“It’s my one superstition,” Jackson said. “My hair has to be a certain way before I compete.”
The former state champion is focused on leading Half Hollow Hills’ district team after missing high school competition last fall because of injury and club obligations.
“This season, I expect to go out there do my best and have a great time,” the Thundercolts’ senior captain said. “I’m here for my team and I’m ready for states.”
At the 2015-16 state competition — her hair with twists on each side coming together in a tight bun — she tied for first place on vault (9.7), took second on the uneven bars (9.5) and tied for ninth on beam (9.0). Gymnastics is a fall sport in Suffolk and a winter sport in Nassau.
“The 2015-16 season was her first year on the team and making it to states and placing in competition was a huge accomplishment,” Hills coach Teri Kindelmann said.
Jackson missed last year, she said, after hurting her foot during a dismount from the beam. The injury required surgery and put her out for two months.
Though she missed the high school season, she competed in the Eastern championship for USA Gymnastics placing third in all-around in her Level 9 group with a score of 37.275, first on vault (9.625), fifth on beam (8.950) and tied for fifth on uneven bars (9.450).
“Nicole is very hardworking . . . if something needs to get done, she does it,” Kindelmann said. “The team missed her last season. She was working on being a stronger gymnast and we’re ready to see those results.”
Jackson’s specialties include uneven bars and vault. She’s working to improve on beam.
“I’m trying to build up my confidence and continue to tell myself I can do it,” Jackson said. “I don’t watch anyone perform on beam. I stay in my own world and focus on doing my best.”
Jackson doing her best is all Kindelmann can ask for. “Since this is her senior year, I want her to do the best she can in all of her events,” Kindelmann said. “This is her last chance to represent herself and her school. I don’t want her to have any regrets. Just have fun and lay it all out there.”
Suffolk’s other top gymnasts
Kerin Spadaro, Bay Shore/Islip: The senior from Bay Shore is the new team captain and the only returning state player after the combined team graduated its two top gymnasts. At state, she placed third in the uneven bars (9.250) and 17th in all-around (8.350).
Kayleigh Pensavalle, Lindenhurst: The senior uneven bars and vault specialist placed fifth at state in the uneven bars (9.125) and 12th in vault (9.050).
Brittney Viera, Smithtown: Viera, from Smithtown West, placed 14th on beam (8.9) at the state meet, and qualified for the state team on floor. The senior will focus on the uneven bars and beam for the combined Smithtown district team this season.
Grace Glennon, West Babylon: Glennon was West Babylon’s first state gymnastics qualifier, according to coach Tom Carson. She placed 19th in vault (8.6) at states last year. The senior will focus on floor exercise and vault.