It is the biggest event of the season. Gymnasts from Suffolk County will be tasked with defending their state championship Saturday in Latham. So yes, the stakes will be high.
“But there’s not really any added pressure,” Commack’s Lauren Gomes said with a smile. After all, Suffolk’s top gymnasts are well-accustomed to performing under bright lights.
“It’s a big moment for us, definitely,” said Gomes, a senior and is committed to Northern Illinois University, “but this is what we do. We’re just going to go out there, have fun and do our best.”
Gomes, who won the all-around with a 37.325 at the state qualifier on Nov. 6, is one of 11 Suffolk gymnasts who will compete at the state meet at Shaker High School.
“When we get here, these girls just turn it on,” said Commack coach JoAnna Judge, who will manage the Suffolk team. “They’re built for this. They’re strong, young women. The pressure won’t get to them.”
Seven gymnasts returned from last year’s state team, which won the team championship.
“It was amazing,” Gomes said, “because as a gymnast, this is an individual sport. So winning as a team is always a special feeling.”
Four gymnasts from Commack — Gomes, Jacklyn Dolitsky, Amanda McNelis and Krista Hagen — anchor the Suffolk lineup. Kerin Sparado of Islip and Bay Shore’s Skye Harper and Hayden Davidson bolster the roster.
“We’re a really fun and supporting team and we don’t really focus on the win,” said Harper, who won floor (9.700) and vault (9.475) at the state qualifier. “We focus on making sure everyone feels comfortable and everyone’s ready to do the best that they can.”
In Nassau, 14 gymnasts comprise the state team. There are four from Massapequa — Gillian Murphy, Julianne Smith, Emily Corso and Jennifer Mullan — and three from Plainview JFK — Miranda Lund, Renee Vulin and Jamie Simon.
At the forefront are Lund (37.625), Murphy (36.275) and Vulin (33.00), who finished with the three best all-around scores at the state qualifier on Feb. 9. Lund’s score of 9.50 on bars was the highest at the meet.
“The competition here was really, really tough,” Lund said after the state qualifier. “Our state team is going to be very strong.”