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Vitale leads Plainview to neighborhood win over Bethpage

Jamie Kaletcher sprinted toward the vault and flipped high over the horse as Bethpage assistant coach Vicky Vitale watched intently. With the sure slap of feet to the mat ensuring a score in the high eights, Vitale’s head turned instantly toward the uneven bars.

There, Victoria Vitale, her daughter, began her final turns on the bars. She was notably wearing a different shade of blue — one that identified her as one of the other guys: Plainview.

Two years after Bethpage-Plainview gymnastics split, the teams remain inexorably intertwined. The fact was on full display yesterday as Plainview (4-0) eked out a 158.25-153.45 victory over its neighbors.

“It doesn’t feel like a real meet,” said Kim Rhatigan, who once coached the conjoined team and has taken over Bethpage (3-1). Coach Debbie Rut of Plainview agreed good-naturedly. “We still do things together.”

In fact, the gymnasts practice together at Jamaica Avenue Elementary School in Plainview. The peculiar circumstances have led to something of an unorthodox camaraderie among supposed rivals.

“The split killed us,” Rut said. “It’s strange, but it’s a great competition for the girls.”

Plainview, led by Danielle Sadick, who took beam with an 8.7, may have won the match, but it was Bethpage that had the top two individual all-around scorers.
Bethpage sophomore Erin Roach finished first all-around with a 33.85. Seventh-grader Jordan Sack took second with a 32.75. Vitale was third with a 32.4.

After the team split, the majority of the upperclassmen left for Plainview. Roach took on a more authoritative role both as team captain and lead gymnast. “It’s hard,” she said. “A lot of the girls just started and a lot of the girls are younger.” Still, she said, the growth has been encouraging. Bethpage finished eighth in Conference I last year but has shown significant improvement this year.

What has resulted in Bethpage and Plainview is a case of nature versus nurture. Where Plainview has many club gymnasts who have honed their skills for years, Bethpage has taken natural athletes and introduced them to gymnastics. Leading them is Roach, a club gymnast herself.

“She’s always been a leader,” Rhatigan said. “I put a lot of pressure on her, but I know she can handle it.”

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