It certainly doesn't seem possible that it's been only a year since Nassau girls gymnastics was flipped on its head.
Status quo re-established, it's easy to forget that the toughest team on Long Island got its legs cut out from under it courtesy of a dramatic decree from the gymnastics powers that be.
Section VIII decided that Plainview-Bethpage had a big enough population to sustain individual teams and both were left recuperating. Plainview, left with the bulk of the upperclassmen, bounced back nicely and eventually took the conference on the capable backs of Danielle Sadick and Ilana Simhon.
Though Sadick and Simhon return as seniors, along with All-State gymnast Victoria Vitale, Plainview took a substantial hit with the graduation of Brittany Trumpy and the loss of Rebecca Feinman. Feinman, who is taking a break this year, was one of the premier gymnasts in Nassau and leaves her team considerably more vulnerable to Oceanside and its always-improving squad.
A year removed from its Conference I championship, Oceanside coach Andy Morris returns Paige McCarthy and Tara Wischert into the fold. McCarthy, an All-State gymnast, will bare the brunt of the load, though there is significant buzz around the return of Diana Tolaj. Tolaj, a senior, has been out of gymnastics for two years but, as a freshman, was considered Oceanside's shining jewel. If Tolaj can regain her dominance, she is a possible level 10 and could be Oceanside's key to defeating Plainview.
"It's the best team we've had in a long time," Morris said. Oceanside has one of the biggest teams in the county, with 23 members, and is full of especially strong vaulters and a visible crew of seventh- and eighth-graders who will look to make a mark.
Hicksville boasts some of the best individual talent in the county, with Allison Osmundson and Lauren Cecco returning. Osmundson placed 13th in the all-around at the state championship last year and Cecco, also a former All-State gymnast, continues to improve in the vein of her older sister, former Hicksville star Danielle Cecco.
Massapequa, last year's fourth-place finisher, returns young. This fact might be enough for the re-emergence of Bethpage.
Bethpage easily fared the worst after the split last year, but come back helmed by sophomore Erin Roach, an All-State gymnast, and senior captain Kelli Kaletcher.
"We were in such an awkward phase in our first year being split," coach Kim Rhatigan said. "It was a real different kind of season . . . We flipped into the championships by the skin of our teeth."
This year, Rhatigan is looking toward Roach, whom she's been "grooming for a number of years" to lead a crew of talented but untested underclassmen.
"Those kids really held on to the dream [last year]," Rhatigan said. "This year, it's a whole strong new team."