It was a nail-biter.
Going into the last rotation of the New York State Gymnastics Championship at Cold Spring Harbor on Saturday, both Nassau and Suffolk had high team scores and top performers. They sat on the sideline with jittery excitement.
The scores were tallied and there was nothing left to do but wait for names to be called.
Section VIII heard its name called early for a change, earning third place with a team score of 180.875, led by Shani Sirota from Roslyn and Joanna Signorile from Carle Place / Wheatley.
“This was a great moment for us,” Signorile said. “The meet started off well. There were some shaky moments but we pulled it together in our last rotation.”
Suffolk placed fourth with a score of 179.650, only 1.2225 points behind Nassau.
This is the first time Nassau earned a higher place than Suffolk since 1996, according to Nassau gymnastics coordinator Kim Rhatigan.
“This was a magical journey,” Rhatigan laughed. “We’ve been working so hard for so many years. To see the girls come home with a metal is satisfying, especially on our home turf. That makes the win even more special.”
Sirota, a freshman new to varsity gymnastics and a first-time member of the state team, was Nassau’s hidden secret. Coming from a small school like Roslyn, she surprised everyone at the qualifiers, especially those who aren’t aware of her club skills, and she continued to surprise everyone at states. She tied for first on the floor exercise, scoring a 9.625. It helped earned her fourth place in the all-around with a 37.625.
“I’m proud,” Sirota said. “I feel like I accomplished something not only for myself but for Nassau. The floor routine was my best for the season. It’s cool that I’m fourth in the whole state. I’m a freshman, so there’s more to come.”
Sirota also placed fifth on beam (9.275), tied for sixth on vault (9.5) and tied for seventh on the uneven bars (9.225).
Both teams struggled to stay on beam. Sirota scored the high for Nassau and eighth-grader Catherine Lyden from the Bay Shore / Islip team, scored the high for Suffolk with a 9.2.
The leader on the Suffolk team was sophomore Kerin Spadaro, also on the Bay Shore / Islip team. She placed second on bars with a 9.575 and tied for third on floor with a 9.45. This is her third year at the state competition and each year she has progressed in both events.
“It was good to come back to those events and pick up where I left off,” Spadaro said. “I’m grateful for my coaches. I was injured at the beginning of the season and wasn’t sure if I would compete in varsity. I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Signorile, a senior from Wheatley, has also been to the state competition three times. She forced her way onto the varsity scene requesting a spot on the Carle Place team since Wheatley didn’t have one. Thanks to her, Carle Place and Wheatley are a combined squad.
She placed sixth on beam (9.350) and ninth in the all-around (36.550).
“I’m really happy that I went to the athletic director that day to get this all started,” Signorile smiled. “Taking that step got me to where I am today. Hopefully, more gymnasts join Wheatley and continue the legacy. Section VIII is so supportive and without that support, none of us would have placed.”