Thanks to two strong senior performers and some up-and-coming young stars, the South Side gymnastics team will be well represented at the upcoming individual state qualifier and county team championships later this month.
Uncertainty surrounded the team this year after star gymnast Payton Waller graduated last spring following an 8-3 season. But despite some recent struggles, South Side has continued to compete at a high level by winning two of its first three Conference I meets and five of seven overall while averaging almost 162 points.
“So far, we’ve been having a pretty good season until we went against Plainview and Massapequa,” Cyclones coach Ashley Harney said. “But it’s still important for us to get good team scores [for the] team championships and for the girls to get good individual scores as well so they can go to state qualifiers.”
The individual state qualifier is at Carle Place High School on Feb. 14, two days before the county team championships at Syosset High School.
Senior captains Kendall Pinsky and Katie Connors have already solidified their spots for the state qualifier in the all-around, as did freshman Mia DiSalvo (vault, floor exercise, balance beam), eighth-grader Nina Napoli (beam) and Erin McCarthy (uneven bars).
Pinsky was listed as a gymnast to watch in Nassau County after finishing 18th in the all-around of last year’s county championships and, so far, she has lived up to that billing. She has excelled in the floor exercise thanks to her dance background and posted a season-high 8.5 score in the uneven bars against Massapequa on Jan. 19 and an 8.2 in the vault in a close win over Long Beach on Dec. 22.
“Kendall is having an awesome season,” Harney said. “She’s our MVP. She’s the anchor most of the time for our team and she finishes things off for us. She’s just really overall a strong athlete.”
Connors has been a “powerhouse” on the balance beam this season and she helped South Side beat Oceanside on Jan. 5 with an 8.7 score in that event along with a 9.1 mark in the floor exercise.
“She just hits every skill when she’s on,” Harney said. “I would say beam is more of her forte [but] she’s definitely a very strong tumbler on floor.”
Younger gymnasts like Napoli and freshmen Ava Jewett and DiSalvo have also contributed. Harney lauded Napoli for making an adjustment to the high school equipment, compared to that of her club team, and posted an 8.9 on the beam against Massapequa.
“It was a little bit of a difficult transition, but overall, she’s been really great,” Harney said.
DiSalvo is a versatile gymnast and her floor exercise routines keyed wins over Roslyn (8.9), Oceanside (9.25) and Bethpage (9.0). Jewett helped the Cyclones beat Roslyn in the opener on Dec. 15 with an 8.1 score on the uneven bars but suffered a non-gymnastics injury soon after and has yet to return.
McCarthy and junior Alexandra Griffo have been solid middle-of-the-lineup competitors, the latter being a consistent performer in most events.