The Essex High School gymnastics team is undefeated, gunning for another trophy at Saturday’s state championships. Champlain Valley will try, once again, to end the Hornets’ recent dominance.
Not much has changed between these gymnastics powers: the Hornets are eyeing an eighth straight crown while the Redhawks, an annual runner-up, aim to end a two-decade-plus title drought when nine teams from across Northern Vermont and a batch of individuals take center stage at Essex High School on Saturday afternoon. The meet starts at 2.
“It’s going to be very close, same as in years past,” said Essex coach Ashley Godin, whose Hornets topped CVU 139.35-to-139.15 in last year’s meet. “(CVU) has a very strong team. We are prepared and it’s doable for us, but we have our work cut out for us.”
The Hornets have weathered injuries and defections — Michaela Isham was lost to a torn ACL earlier this season; last year’s all-around champion Kira Tanghe did not return to the team — to roll to an 8-0 season that includes last week’s 134-to-133.15 home win over CVU. But Essex will also be without one of their top gymnasts Saturday: Ashley Douglas is away on vacation.
“It’s given other girls on the team an opportunity to step up in a time of pressure, in a time of need,” Godin said. “I think that makes the other girls stronger, they build off each other. It’s been a positive for us.”
Karyn Svarczkopf, who finished second as a freshman two years ago but missed last year’s state meet, and Courtney Gleason will lead the Hornets in the all-around competition. Last year Gleason placed seventh in all-around. Olivia Mueller, Abigail Evans and Taylor Thompson will also play key roles.
CVU, which accrued the state’s highest score of the season, a 137.5 in the finale, boasts a lineup that includes Megan Nick, Sarah Kinsley, Madison Bourdeau and Grace Kelly. Bob Abbott is CVU’s first-year head coach.
As the battle for first place wages between Essex and CVU, the third position should be interesting between South Burlington and Harwood.
The all-around title, which has gone to an Essex gymnast in each of the past seven years, is a toss-up. Among the contenders: Nick, Kinsley, Gleason and Svarczkopf will vie for the individual crown with Harwood’s Tyra Izor, South Burlington’s Kelly O’Brien and independents Avery Linde of Mount Mansfield and Sarah Haggerty of Burlington.
“It’s going to be who has the best meet. Their all-around scores have fluctuated all year long. It could really go either way,” said Godin of the all-around contenders.