Gymnasts Conforti, Shackleton Lead Southern Past Manchester for Sixth Win

By DAVID BIGGY | Oct 03, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Coach Judy Miller knew in August the caliber of gymnasts Southern Regional had entering the program as freshmen. The question wasn’t so much their abilities, but rather how their prowess and previous experiences would translate into positive results for the Rams this fall.

“Coming into the season, I really wasn’t sure,” Miller said after her squad trounced Manchester, 101.45-89.145, on Oct. 2. “We had a bunch of freshmen who we knew were good coming in, but you never really know what that’s going to look like at the high school varsity level. But now we know.”

The victory over the Hawks marked six straight to start the season, during which the Rams have scored 100 or more points in each contest. On Monday, junior Gabi Conforti led the way with an all-around effort of 34.175, while senior Autumn Shackleton followed with a 32.425.

“Everyone on the team has different strengths that help improve our scores,” said Conforti, who stuck her dismount following a mostly clean balance-beam routine to score a 9.0 and finished off with an 8.7 after an excellently choreographed floor routine. “We have a lot of depth, and the freshmen have really impacted our scoring in a big way. It feels really good to start off 6-0.”

Southern took the initial lead by outscoring Manchester by 0.325 on the vault, as Conforti took the second spot with an 8.6. Freshman Hailey Klimas grabbed the third position with an 8.65, while Shackleton followed with an 8.575 and sophomore Gianna Antinora scored an 8.5.

The Rams increased their lead on the uneven bars when freshman Maria Mezzo delivered an 8.275, Conforti registered a 7.875 and Klimas and Shackleton added scores of 7.525 and 7.3, respectively. Miller’s crew put the contest out of reach during their balance beam routines. Behind Conforti, Mezzo finished second with an 8.5 and Shackleton added a 7.55.

Up by just over nine points heading into the final event, all the Rams scored well to finish off the Hawks, with Mezzo and Shackleton posting scores of 9.0, followed by freshman Abigail Scheider’s fantastic routine with a highly upbeat dance element that scored a solid 8.9. Conforti scored 8.7 and Antinora scored 8.25.

Despite an injury to freshman Ally English, who had been bolstering Southern’s scores through the first few weeks, and senior Sarah Possidel also sidelined for the past couple of weeks, Southern hasn’t missed a beat.

“We’re really good this season,” Shackleton said with a smile. “All the new girls coming into the program have given us tremendous depth, and even when we have injuries somebody’s been able to step in and keep our scores at a high level. And even when we’ve had some falls here and there, we’ve been good enough to score well. We all seem to have a good mentality and stay composed. That’s been important to our success, so far.”

On Sept. 27, Southern edged Brick, 101-100, as Mezzo was second on the all-around leaderboard with a 33.95, followed by Shackleton, who missed all of last season with a back injury, with a 32.975. Klimas, who won the floor with an 8.9, scored an 8.75 to take second on the vault, while Mezzo scored an 8.7. Mezzo led on the bars with an 8.5 and grabbed second on the floor with an 8.8. Conforti was second on the beam with an 8.575, and Shackleton snagged third on floor with an 8.7.

The 6-0 start is one thing, but the Rams scoring 100-plus in each victory is a whole different thing – and something a Southern gymnastics squad hasn’t seen in a long time, if ever. But with Brick Memorial and Jackson Memorial, a pair of Shore Conference Class A South powerhouses this season, still coming up on the schedule, it’s tough to say whether the Rams will remain undefeated much longer.

“I’m absolutely happy about starting off 6-0,” Miller said. “The girls definitely want to win meets, but I don’t focus on that so much. I’m really interested in the girls getting better and being great teammates for each other. The kids are challenging each other, but in a positive way. And that’s what we want: to see the girls push each other higher.”

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