Southern Regional Gymnastics Squad Already Proving Its Depth, Talent, Meaning Bigger Scores to Come

By David Biggy | Sep 25, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Southern gymnast Ali English swings through her routine on the uneven bars during the Rams’ victory over Central Regional on Sept. 20.

Stafford Township — Many coaches would love to have the problem Southern Regional High School gymnastics coach Judy Miller has, which can be summarized very simply: Her team is loaded with talented girls. However, with gymnastics, only five girls compete in any one event, so juggling that talent to meet the team needs and the level of the opponent can be a bit tough sometimes.

“Our girls know that I have six warm up for an event and five compete, so there’s always somebody who is removed from the lineup once the meet starts,” Miller said after her team scored 105.475 to easily defeat Central Regional on Sept. 20. “But we have a JV team and in our gym we always have a JV meet, so the one girl not doing a certain event can still do her routine, to hone her skills and improve.

“Sometimes we don’t need our top five girls in all four events. So if one girl’s back is bothering her, or another one’s ankle is bothering her, we don’t have to take the chance at getting them injured. We can afford to let those girls rest because we have other girls who can take that spot for a day and score really well. As long as I get them opportunities for qualifying scores for the Shore Conference or state meets, it’s all good.”

The one problem the Rams haven’t had through their first three meets of the new season is scoring points. Following this past Monday’s 104.6-95.9 victory over Toms River East, Southern is averaging 105.35 points per contest – a huge number compared to this time last year, when the Rams were hovering around 101. They started the season on Sept. 12 with a 105.975-97.375 win over Toms River South.

“We’re a lot more put together this year,” said sophomore Ava Kelly. “We have a lot of girls perfect for our lineup. Anybody can step in at any time and do well. We all spot each other and help each other get better with our skills. We’re very supportive of each other, and that’s a huge part of why we’re doing so well as a team. But we definitely can do better.”

So far, it’s safe to say Miller hasn’t had to put her best five gymnasts in all four events – those times will come up later in the season, particularly when facing Jackson Memorial and Brick Memorial, two of the top teams in the division. So, without question, the Rams can do better.

“We have so much depth that it doesn’t really matter who we put out there for a meet. We’re still going to score well,” said junior Maria Mezzo after she completed a double back handspring on her balance beam routine for the first time against Central. “This is still the beginning. Right now, a lot of us are just cleaning things up as we add new skills to our routines. We’re all working hard to improve our scores, but a 110 is not out of the question.”

In the meet with the Golden Eagles, during which Miller didn’t have an all-around competitor, the “scaled down version” of Southern’s lineup was solid. Sophomore Abigail Scheider delivered an 8.5 on the vault, followed by an 8.45 from sophomore Hannah Russo and a trio of 8.35 scores from junior Hailey Klimas, Ali English and Daniella Mineo.

On the uneven bars, Kelly led the way with an 8.95, while Mezzo ended up with an 8.3 and Klimas registered a 7.9. Kelly’s 9.5 and Mezzo’s 9.2 were the top two scores on the beam, followed by 8.3 tallies from Klimas and sophomore Emma Wasacz. For the floor exercise, senior Gianna Antinora – the only senior on the team, by the way – led off with an 8.65, before Scheider scored a 9.0, English managed a 9.2, and Kelly and Mezzo each scored 9.4.

Against Toms River East, Kelly delivered an all-around score of 36.7 and Mezzo recorded a 34.35, after scoring 9.2 and 9.1, respectively, on vault. Kelly added an 8.9 on the bars, a 9.4 on beam and a 9.2 on the floor, while Mezzo added top scores of 9.1 on beam and 9.15 on the floor.

“We have a very talented team with a lot of leaders, and I’ve pictured a meet where we have our top five on all four events, so our best team score is still coming,” Miller said. “We can take our time with developing some things because some of the skills they’re trying to put in their routines are just hard. But they don’t have to get them the first time because we have so much talent and depth.

“This team is a lot better than last year, but, more importantly, what I really love to see is how their hearts are all in it. We have an amazing group of girls.”

— David Biggy

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