Southern Gymnastics Team Avoids Graduation Curse

Sep 07, 2016
Photo by: David Biggy Kristina Raylman

Graduation is the bane of high school coaches. A pro team can keep its stars as long as it wants to, although free agency has certainly made it more difficult for owners and GMs to keep a winning core intact over the years. But high school coaches usually have to say goodbye to leaders and stars and start working with freshmen and sophomore replacements on a yearly basis.

Southern Regional High School gymnastics head coach Judy Miller and her assistant Jackie Hemenway don’t have that problem this year. Their 2015 varsity team has returned intact. Not only that, last year’s team was a good one. The girls went 8-3 and finished fifth in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association South State Sectionals.

Ashley Hemenway, now the team’s senior co-captain, led the Ram effort in the South Sectionals, placing eighth in the floor exercise. Gabriella Conforti, now a sophomore, placed 10th in the same event. Both are strong all-around competitors.

The other senior co-captain, Kristina Raylman, excels on the bars and vault. Her classmates include Jenny Fay, whose best event is the floor; Olivia Lattanzi, who is best on the beam and floor; and Samantha Laubach, who scores highest on the bars and vault.

The junior contingent includes Noelle Englebert, who is best on the beam; Sarah Possidel, who enjoys the beam, floor and vault; and Autumn Shackleton, an all-around competitor.

So Southern returns a veteran squad, giving it a chance to have even a better year than in 2015. And that’s not the end of the team’s advantages.

The Rams have a 10-meet schedule, which you’d figure would mean five meets at home and five on the road, or something close to that. But Southern will actually travel to a meet just twice, visiting Brick Township and Barnegat. The other eight will be held at Southern, even though many are officially classified as “away” meets, with the opposing teams paying for the officials.

“Having most of the meets in our gym despite some of them being away matches is an advantage for our girls,” said Coach Hemenway. “But many schools do not have the regulation equipment in their gyms; they must travel to Southern for their home match. We are very lucky to have a full gym of equipment.”

— Rick Mellerup

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